By Kent E. Fillinger
Twenty years of positive growth for a church is virtually unheard of, but that is what Barry Cameron has experienced at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
When Cameron arrived in 1992, the church had never broken 250 in attendance, its facilities were limited and decaying, and it was in debt. The church outgrew its Arlington facility by 2004, when it was averaging 1,800, so it relocated to Grand Prairie. Even though the church could track 800 people who didn’t make the move, the church still grew.
Last year Crossroads grew 15 percent to an average worship attendance of 4,803. Cameron credits the two decades of growth to consistent, bold Bible preaching at every level of ministry, which satisfied people’s hunger for God’s Word, and the church’s heart for the lost nearby and around the world. For example, the church’s elders voted in February to double the annual support of all of its mission partners.
The church has been in a building project of some kind for the last 20 years. The church currently has $14 million on deposit to build a 75,000-square-foot children’s ministry space. Once the children’s space is completed in 18 to 24 months, Cameron anticipates the church could double in size. The church also plans to add a 75,000-square-foot youth ministry space in the near future.
The church is debt-free and plans to stay that way during these two foreseeable building projects. Before relocating almost a decade ago, at least 50 cars a week left the parking lot because there were no open parking spots. A ministry friend told Cameron this situation wasn’t acceptable, and encouraged him to take a short-term loan to build the new Grand Prairie facility. Crossroads qualified for a $60 million loan but opted to take only $14 million to build its current facility.
Cameron identified the longest period of recorded debt in the Bible as seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1, 2). He told the congregation that if it took this loan to build, then the church would never borrow money again. The church paid off its $14 million loan in four years. The church actually wrote it into the bylaws that it cannot borrow any money unless there are adverse financial conditions affecting the church’s ability to operate, and then the elders and the entire congregation must unanimously support any indebtedness.
Crossroads uses a zero-based budget strategy with each of its ministries, meaning each ministry must cover all (or the majority of) its expenses. Cameron said this strategy cuts down on unnecessary ministry activities and eliminates the entitlement mentality present in the typical budgeting model, where each ministry is given a set amount of money to spend. Crossroads follows the idea that “the money flows where the ministry grows,” so leadership occasionally decides to pay for certain ministry expenses from the general budget that couldn’t be offset otherwise. For example, the church recently completed a $4 million renovation of the sound and video systems in its worship center that was funded from the general budget.
Cameron preaches an annual stewardship series, and the church asks people to complete a commitment card indicating they will either start to tithe and give an offering above the tithe, or continue to tithe and give an offering above the tithe. The church collects these commitment cards and then mails them to each person to remind them of the commitment they made to God. This year, for the first time, the church copied all of the commitment cards and put each card on a standard and placed them in the front of the worship center to let everyone see the individual commitments to give.
Even with the consistent teaching on giving, Cameron realizes many at Crossroads don’t give anything. Based on the median income in the area, according to Cameron, the congregation is giving at only about one-fourth the level it would be if everyone were tithing.
Cameron sees to it that the church keeps its spending lean. For example, in seven of the last 20 years, the staff didn’t receive any raises or bonuses. He said many other churches try to do too much too soon, and leaders unnecessarily drive churches into debt. Cameron teaches money management and debt alleviation in churches across the country to remedy this situation.
He noted the church is undergoing a major ministry overhaul this year as it shifts to a stronger, more consistent focus on connecting people to God and others through small groups. Crossroads may end up moving away from its Wednesday evening service that averages 2,000 to 2,500 people in an effort to promote small group involvement in homes. Cameron said the church has always been effective at reaching lost people and getting them to come to church, but it has not been equally effective at making disciples. Leaders realized people were coming but weren’t connected, so now Crossroads is focusing more on discipleship.