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How one church recovered from the brink of financial disaster

By Bethany Plumb

When Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, CA, accumulated $500,000 in debt — in addition to falling behind on their mortgage payments — financial ruin and foreclosure seemed imminent.

“Our loan was delinquent and the pastor at the time was avoiding communication with our credit union,” says current Senior Pastor Chuck Booher. “We were weeks away from forcing Evangelical Christian Credit Union to take action.”

The church hit a new low when funds designated for an orphanage in India were instead used to bring the checking account back into the black. They were behind in every payment and utility companies were threatening to shut off water and electricity.

Financial management lacking

According to Booher, Crossroads found themselves in this position largely because of a lack of good financial management. “There wasn’t a budget,” says Booher, “The church just spent money — sometimes up to $50,000 more a week than what was brought in.” And then tithes dipped.

Worst of all, the financial situation was kept a secret from both the church body and the elders. Booher is convinced that, if the pastor had come clean, the church would have rallied around him and they wouldn’t have gotten in so deep. “At any point,” he says, “honesty and transparency would have pulled the church out of it.”

In spite of the financial downward spiral, Crossroads came back from the brink of disaster and is now a beacon in its multicultural community. Recovery began when Booher — pastoring another church at the time — was asked to step in as pastor at Crossroads. He declined initially, then asked for financials to pray over when summoned again.

When Booher learned that there weren’t any financials available, he began to understand the seriousness of the situation. He accepted the position, and his first act as pastor was to disclose the truth of the financial crisis to his congregation.

Then he worked relentlessly to get the church out of debt. “We took out a third mortgage on our mortgage to pay off debts and to guarantee our mortgage payments for the immediate future,” says Booher. “Then we rallied the church. The amazing thing is, in 40 days $550,000 of past due debt was paid off.” It was even more amazing when one considers that the average age of the church community is only 35.

Three steps to rescue

Booher explains how the new leadership at Crossroads closely followed three critical steps to guide the church through the process of getting out of debt:

“First, we got the key leaders together and explained everything in writing and verbally. We were ready to answer any questions and instituted a spirit of transparency.

“Second, we created a higher level of accountability. Our executive pastor now meets monthly with three elders and goes through all of our expenses. An outside CPA also comes in monthly and goes over financials with the elder board. And I meet with the head of the accounting department monthly to see if they are concerned about anything questionable.

“Third, we told our church family, ‘Don’t give to the problem. Give to the Lord.’ Out of love for God, our congregation brought in $600,000 over their regular tithes in a 40-day period. We paid off our debt and instituted a strict budget,” Booher says.

Today, Crossroads ministers to more than 6,000 people every week — an increase of 2,000 people from a year and a half ago. They hold six different services, including three in the Worship Center, a chapel service, a satellite service in Lake Elsinore, and a service in Spanish.

Booher attributes the growth of the church to a spirit of truth embodied by the leadership. “God is honored by truth. That means having transparency within the body of believers. Great leaders communicate — and people will trust you enough to give,” he says.

Bethany Plumb has a background in banking and marketing and has been writing for more than 10 years for Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), Brea, CA. [www.eccu.org]


MORE OF THE STORY

In this video (www.eccu.org/resources/videos/2009/crossroads-christian-church), Pastor Booher shares how God brought Crossroads Christian Church from death’s door to a vibrant, flourishing ministry.

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