Hope Church (Cordova, TN)
A “Good Steward” Award recipient in the area of financial management, the compelling story of Hope Church begins in 2009, when Scott Milholland was hired to oversee all staff, ministries, operations, business and financial stewardship. The result is an annual giving increase of 27 percent over three years, from $11 million to more than $14 million; debt reduction (from $21 million to current $9 million); and an annual surplus of $2 million to $3 million.
Milholland also recruited, built and led a “faithful, wise, prudent” finance committee, for an additional $3 million.
- A Good Steward Award 2013: Giving Solutions
- Good Steward Awards 2013: Food service
- Good Steward Awards 2013: Finance
What was your relevant experience — ministry-based and/or business-focused — before joining Hope Church as COO?
Milholland: I spent 25 years in the marketplace. I held various leadership positions across the country — as vice president/general manager of a large regional company, as a national vice president of operations, and also as a chief financial officer.
How did you drive an annual giving increase of 27 percent? Any practical strategies to share?
Milholland: The strategy was a formalized stewardship program, with a stewardship director. We launched a thank-you-letter program for first-time and large gifts. We held weekly stewardship communications / meetings with members and visitors, as well as leadership / donor dinners. We sent quarterly stewardship letters and emails. We taught and shepherded giving / stewardship as part of discipleship.
What strategies did you use to cut the church’s debt by $12 million?
Milholland: We reduced the debt with a budget plan / process that started with leading and collaborating with the finance committee on the plan. We set the timelines, processes and targets for the budget, cash management, and debt reduction. Early budget planning / training was implemented with ministry leaders. Clear expectations on financial stewardship were communicated, and I was involved in building the annual budgets for each ministry. Ministry leaders were trained to manage the budgets, which were then implemented, along with monthly budget management by ministry leaders and the finance committee.
When you say the church has an “annual surplus” of $2 million to $3 million, what does that mean?
Milholland: The annual surplus is basically the net income — that is, revenue minus expenses. Because we’ve made such progress with our stewardship, budget and debt-reduction efforts, we now have an additional $2 million to $3 million, annually, for additional ministry.
The finance committee is led by me (the COO); Dana Shankle, our accounting director; Art Fogartie, our stewardship director; and six members from our church with financial/stewardship skills — three elders and three members.
How did you go about finding and recruiting the right people to assemble a “faithful, wise, prudent” finance committee?
Milholland: As far as candidate selection, it’s an ongoing process of prayer, shepherding and screening during the year for Godly men and women who have the spiritual maturity, wisdom and heart to serve. I also meet with people whom the stewardship director thinks would be good on the committee.
Now that I’ve been here four years, I know a lot of people and have seen them grow in their faith and leadership in the church. I can see God working in them for a role on our committee, either now or later down the road.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh