Bubba Justice shoots straight about the power of giving and missions
by Jason Chatraw
Money plays a large role in expanding ministry especially in the area of missions. Cutting Edge spoke with Inverness Vineyard (Alabama) Senior Pastor Bubba Justice about money and missions. Bubba is an anomaly among pastors: He entered into ministry after spending 10 years working in the financial field as both an accountant for a “Big Six” accounting firm and as a company CFO. He enjoys talking about missions and money from the pulpit and with other pastors. He is now functioning part time as the VUSA national coordinator.
This is part 2 of a 4-part series. Click here for part 1.
CE: How has this “pockets of giving” approach impacted your church?
BJ: We started doing this in 1998. I have been amazed at how generous people are. Prior to that, they had resources they wanted to give to missions, but they just weren't provided an outlet to do it. But that's all changed. The feedback I receive now has consistently been, "I didn't know our church did so much mission work. I've wanted to financially support missions in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. I'm glad I can do that now through my own local church."
It typically begins with a very low-key offering time where we share both our vision and heart for what we're trying to do, without inserting any guilt or pressure. And the people have responded with generous giving. In fact, it always amazes me how our regular per-person giving to the church has not been negatively impacted by highlighting missions or other pockets-of-giving.
Truth is, what people give in tithes ranks consistently above the national average, which comes by dividing your total attendance (including youth and children) by the total received in tithes for that week. But it’s on top of that number that we add in what's been given to the building fund, charity account, and missions fund. When I talk to other pastors, they cannot believe how we can maintain our regular tithes and offerings in light of our giving to these other areas. But so much of it has to do with giving people an opportunity to participate in what God has consistently placed on their hearts.
CE: How do you present people with different opportunities to give without seeming like you just want their money?
BJ: I think most churches do have plenty of pockets-of-giving opportunities, but we pastors are so reluctant to talk about money because we don't want people to think we have wrong motives. There are so many pastors who have abused money in the past and still abuse it today. So we tend to react to what we see happening on TV and on the radio and at big crusades. We think, "I will err on the side of not talking about money since it has been abused by so many others." Pastors everywhere struggle with this, even pastors I talk to overseas. But that isn't healthy either. I tell pastors they have to get past their fear of talking about money. One of the ways we do that is, we try to make it as humorous as possible when we can.
In 2008, for example, we took 20 students on a mission trip to England, and we needed to raise about $2000 per student. So we put on "Missionary Idol," where we had the students stand up with a number and say, "Please send me to England." People would approach us afterward and say, "I want to fully fund this person to go to England." Because we did it using the "American Idol" motif, people laughed and had a good time with it. We raised all of the money we needed. When you start bringing humor into it, people are more generous. When you introduce fun, you introduce excitement.
I also think pastors need to say, "This is how we're going to be accountable with the money that you give us." So I give very detailed reports about how the money was spent and how it impacted people. With this kind of feedback, people not only feel good about what they've given toward, but they're even more excited to give again.
This is part 2 of a 4-part series. Click here for part 3.
Bubba has led the Inverness Vineyard in Birmingham, Alabama since 1994. For over a decade, he's led the East Africa (now Kenya) Partnership, and he served as an APCL for the Southeast. In 2013 Bubba began leading the Learning Community Team for Vineyard Missions USA training, and he has been on the Missions Task Force representing the Southeast since 2007. With Bubba's ten years' experience as a financial manager for various companies, including working as a CPA for the international accounting firm Ernst and Young, he is now serving as the newly-appointed National Coordinator for Vineyard USA.