Grove Avenue Baptist Church is a church with missions on its mind. The Richmond, VA, congregation increased their Cooperative Program giving from 2 percent to 10 percent, and in that same time frame, increased their Lottie Moon offering from $15,000 to $90,000.
"I believe the difference was exposure," says Nema Westmoreland, a member of the church's missions committee. "It was God's hour. This is not a wealthy church, but it does have a number of sacrificial givers." The exposure involved inviting current and former missionaries to speak at the church, where they gave testimonies about how missions offerings had provided for them in the past and the types of things those offerings could help with in the future.
Westmoreland says these testimonies created a lot of excitement, so the missions committee began encouraging more testimonies from church members involved in short term missions. "We began recognizing these people by calling them up in front of the congregation," Westmoreland says. "The church would commission them, and we would call members out of the audience to pray for them. Then, when these short-term missionaries came back, they'd give testimonies and that infected others who heard."
Grove Avenue Pastor Ronald Boswell says, "A missions emphasis has not hurt overall giving, but has actually enhanced it in this church. Our highest Sundays for overall giving were on Lottie Moon Sundays. We've not only exceeded our Lottie Moon offering goal, but we've also met our budget. I think that pleases the Father, and I think He just says, 'I'm just going to bless them.'"
Missions committee members say Boswell, a missionary for 17 years and FMB employee for 13, played a significant role promoting Grove Avenue's missions giving. "The church can only go as far as the pastor, and he was out in front leading us into missions," says Jim Slack of the missions committee. "The pastor has a mission's heart and the people responded to that. Now we're praying God will call more members out of this church into full-time missionary service."
Next year, Grove Avenue plans to provide housing for missionaries on furlough. This year's Lottie Moon goal is over $100,000.
But we've always done it that way.
A key factor in increased missions giving was moving the television ministry budget out of the missions category and into a budget line of its own, says missions committee chairman James Westmoreland. "We began to see that television was a ministry, but not a mission," he says. "When we separated television from missions, it cleared things up, helping to clarify our missions focus." Ironically, the broadcast of Grove Avenue's worship service is one of the longest running live television programs in the country.