One Thanksgiving Day early in the history of Betenbough Homes, Ron Betenbough shared the following verse with his family and business partners, Rick and Holly Betenbough.
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.” – Exodus 23:19
The family’s simple obedience to this verse was the start of a culture of generosity that would mark the business for years to come.
Betenbough Homes has learned to express generosity in two major ways – being generous towards others (external ministry) and being generous with their own employees (internal ministry).
Be Generous with the People Around You
The first of those two expressions started in 1998 when the company started tithing some of their profits by giving gifts to ministries and non-profits. They brought together a ministry council to help them make these giving decisions.
Holly Betenbough shared her memories on the beginning stages of this process.
“Before we started Betenbough Homes, I had been working for Childcare Management Services as the Curriculum Developer and part of that role was evaluating grants. So, when Ron brought the verse from Exodus to our attention I was excited to use my prior experience in this new adventure,” Holly said.
“We knew about some local ministries so I first connected with those groups. As I met with different ministries, the Lord would help me discern who we should partner with financially,” Holly said.
By 2005, the company was receiving up to 50 grants a month. Clearly, a second person was needed. Tiffany Berry was hired on to help Holly evaluate the grants they were receiving.
The company continued to accept an increasing number of grant applications and while they were excited to be partnering with so many ministries, they noticed that they had begun to approach their giving differently than they had in the beginning.
“We realized it had gotten to a point where we were prioritizing the cry of God’s people above the whisper of His own voice. We had begun to give out of obligation and personal relationship which in turn, fostered an unhealthy dependency with our ministry partners. It was no longer joyful and it was not God’s design,” Holly said.
Deciding to publically repent of how they had gotten off-course, the leadership team invited all their ministry partners to a breakfast to share what was on their heart.
“We told them that we loved each of them dearly, but had realized we were not listening for God’s leading in this area anymore,” Holly said.
Their team continued by conveying that they were going to press pause on any new commitments until they felt they had received clear direction from the Lord.
“Some of the ministries struggled with that, they said if we stopped giving, their ministry would collapse – and some did. But a lot of ministry partners voiced support and reminded us God was their provider. Those ministries continued to thrive,” Holly said.
Some principles concerning giving began to emerge for the leadership team during this time of growth and refining.
- Surround yourself with wise council.
- Examine the fruit.
- Leave personal agendas at the door.
- Only give when there is a collective peace about the decision.
While Betenbough Homes had put a ministry council in place, they learned quickly that it was important to look around and see how other Kingdom businesses were giving and operating. It was dangerous to exist in a silo, only drawing on their own experience.
Another thing the Lord clarified for them was that He wanted them to sow into movements that were bearing much fruit. “Fruit should be the first thing we are looking at,” Holly said.
“You will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16
Additionally, while it was hard to learn to leave personal agendas at the door, this was something the leadership team also knew needed to change.
“People would have a personal connection to a ministry and sometimes because of that connection, they could end up overpowering other opinions in the room,” Holly said.
Lastly, they came out of this season knowing that the whole team needed to be on board about a decision. If some people were having reservations, they decided to wait until they could be unified.
They began giving new financial gifts and commitments again after this season of refining.
“In 2010, some of our people had just returned from a mission trip (what the company now calls vision trips) to India,” Holly said.
“Our whole company was gathered to hear their stories and the team mentioned that the ministry partner in India had a project that would cost them a large sum of money. All of the employees in the room started looking around at each other and they asked us if we could meet that need. Their request made us so excited. It was a spontaneous, joy-filled gift, and it was completely employee led,” Holly said.
This was another major change of process that was made along the way. After this experience, the leadership team realized they wanted their employees to be involved and engaged in external giving.
To this day, all grants are brought before the employees of the company – they are now the ministry council.
If you want everyone engaged in a culture of generosity, what better way to do this than to invite everyone into the giving?
Be Generous with the People in Front of You
The other way generosity has taken form at Betenbough Homes has been generosity towards the employees.
One day in 2006, Holly heard the voice of the Lord ask her this question:
“It is good to give all this money away, but what do the people who work with you every day know about my love for them and my generosity in their lives through your example?”
“It never occurred to us that our company could be like one of those ministries we were giving to,” Holly said.
Why not first be generous with the people in front of you?
This is exactly what Holly and Tiffany and the rest of the leadership team set out to do. Excited by this new idea, they reached out to other businesses who modeled this.
“We visited a for-profit company in Dallas who had a full-time corporate chaplain. We learned about what he did day-to-day and what it would mean to have someone in that capacity investing in our people,” Tiffany said.
Returning home, they started by hiring a full-time ministry coordinator to help.
“We didn’t know where to start. We had a total of 42 employees at the time so we simply started loving people through celebrations and sympathies such as baby showers, birthdays and hospital visits. We also began sending people on short-term mission trips in 2007,” Tiffany said.
In addition, the ministry team changed the formats of their morning devotional times (which they had already been doing) to include a variety of new things.
The leadership team has also taken away some key principles in this area over the years as well:
- Everyone is a minister, not just the ministry coordinators.
- Ministry coordinators help equip others.
- Invite people to get involved, don’t require it.
- Internal generosity is just as worthy of an investment.
It is easy to hire a ministry coordinator and fall into the trap of letting them handle the “spiritual stuff.” Seeking God’s Kingdom is a team sport, and should still continue to be spearheaded by the leaders of the company.
In turn, ministry coordinators help by keeping the Kingdom at the forefront of the company’s mind. They can help keep people focused, help model it, and equip others to do it. Ultimately, a ministry team should not be hired to create the culture, but rather promote and grow a Kingdom culture that is already in place.
“Another thing we learned along the way is to always invite our people to engage with a Kingdom culture, but not require it,” Tiffany said. “We have tried to create different kinds of opportunities for people to engage in so there is something for everyone to grow in – no matter where they might be on their spiritual journey.”
Holly elaborated on another key principle that has impacted her.
“We have truly come to believe that investing in our own people and being generous with them is just as worthy of an investment as writing a check to a ministry half-way across the world,” Holly said.
In our nation’s culture, generosity is often viewed as writing a check. In the culture of the Kingdom, generosity is more about why you give than how you give.
“We have found that we can be generous with our time, talent, treasure and influence,” Tiffany said. She continued by explaining how being generous with the time they give their employees to travel or attend events has had a tremendous impact.
“Over the years we have watched people adopt children, save their marriages and accept Christ all because of an experience. There was a couple in our company who were about to get a divorce but stayed together because of how they encountered God on a vision trip,” Tiffany said.
So, whether you have endless financial resources or not, there is always an opportunity to be generous to those around you, and those within your company.
These streams of generosity and the principles learned along the way help form the foundation Betenbough Homes stands on today. It’s a 25-year history of willingness and brokenness, redemption and perseverance.
Holly’s advice to other businesses considering starting a ministry team?
“You don’t have to have it all figured out, just start somewhere. Pray about it, let the Lord show you and open a door. He will truly show you what to do step-by-step, and when you get out of step, He will show you how to get back in step. Just start,” Holly said.
If you are ready to start, make sure to read part two of this article which will be released next Monday. In the second installment, we will share practical ideas and tips from some of our current ministry team members.
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