The People Who Count

Rebecca Lang

Finance team encouraged about future impacting God’s Kingdom

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
– Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

This is the verse you will find on most cups strewn around the finance office. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a new person to get a cup when he or she joins the team. When I sat down with Glenn Garton, Donna Gagnon, Brenda Beaver, Leanne Wynsma, and Cathy Klinshaw, it was evident why that verse stands as their ministry’s anthem.

Glenn, our finance director, began attending Northland online in 2013 while relocating to the area for a new position. He says his penchant for lazy Sunday mornings after a very full workweek prompted him to search for a church that streamed services online. He visited a few churches in Orlando but found himself joining online because he loved the worship so much.

“When my family finally moved here, we saw there was a special needs ministry, which we were drawn to because we have an adult special needs daughter. That was a litmus test for us on the heart of the congregation, and therefore we felt even more called to Northland.

“This place felt like a family once we really began getting integrated with Access Ministries.”

They continued to immerse themselves in the Northland community, and this February, Glenn joined the staff as our finance director.

“Our calling is to serve and protect, kind of like the police motto,” Glenn says about his team. “We serve the congregation by protecting and stewarding their money for the sake of ministry. We’re often looked at in a negative way, but we’re really not the ‘do and don't do’ people.” They are more about helping the ministries accomplish their goals.

When he thinks about the journey that led him to his role at Northland, he shares, “I spent so many years in business in the CFO role, and now I’m trying to use those experiences and modify it to this environment.

“How does my business skill set translate to what God wants from me here in this context? One dynamic I’ve been aware of is in business you’re always holding your cards. You don’t want to give away too much. I don’t feel that burden here at all. In fact, if you’re going to pray about something happening in your department (and you are), then you want to share it with others so they can join you in prayer for God’s guidance and wisdom.”

In doing that, the team is able to break down the perceptions that others have of the finance department and build collaborative momentum that works to resource the church, impact the community and expand God’s Kingdom here on earth.

“A lot of people don’t realize our department is a ministry too. We are a part of the cog in the wheel that helps make ministry happen here,” adds Donna Gagnon, who worked as the accounting supervisor here before she and her husband, Don, were congregants. “When I first started working at Northland, I realized the Holy Spirit was very present. Soon after, we began attending worship, and before you knew it, we were consistently serving on Monday nights, greeting, and joined the prayer team.

“Pastor Gus asked Don to join the new round of elders class. After a couple of months, he dropped out because he didn't feel worthy. Gus, being persistent, as Gus always is, asked him to join the next one. He was reluctant. I finally said to him, ‘God uses imperfect people. If you’re waiting to be perfect, it’s never going to happen, so you might as well go for it!’”

Don eventually became a shepherding elder, and several years later, both Don and Donna became Stephen Ministers. Currently they serve our congregation as Stephen Ministers, through several volunteer roles and as longtime small group leaders.

Brenda first connected with Northland through her previous job as the church administrator at a new church plant in Sanford.

“I was so happy and grateful for how much they offered their assistance with building our benevolence ministry,” she recalls.

“As a church administrator, I didn't often get to worship at my church, so I began going to Northland on Monday nights.” As she began to feel it was time to go, Brenda was told about a finance position that opened up at Northland.

“Finance was the one thing I disliked the most in my current job,” she says. “But I came in anyway and was given a three-page finance test. Halfway through, I stopped and said, ‘This isn’t for me,’ but they encouraged me to keep going.”

After reviewing the test, Cindy Tucker, the human resources director at the time, told Brenda she either was a really good guesser or knew more than she gave herself credit for. Soon after, Brenda accepted the position.

Because of “church hurt,” Brenda didn’t get involved much outside of her staff role at first. “I sought out the anonymity that Northland provides. This place is different things for different people, and we have to honor that. People are on different paths.”

A lot has happened since then, and Brenda has benefited from the healing and therapeutic community that is Northland. Today she leads a weekly staff Bible study using Pastor Matt’s book, “Life With a Capital L.”

“When I finally stopped being afraid to open up to people, God really began to change me,” she shares about her healing. “I used to tell people, ‘Just put it in my mailbox,’ and now I say, ‘Bring it to my office’! I find that God is using me with His unlimited resources, and with my willingness to be used, I have purposeful conversations with people and staff. God has given me the words to say to others, and it seems to help.”

Even though she wasn’t enthusiastic about the finance role initially, Brenda says now, “I love accounts payable because I get to use my skills. God knew I needed this job to use my organizational strengths, and He knew I needed time to heal too. My favorite thing is when someone asks for a 10-year-old receipt, and I can find it! It makes the mind-numbing filing worth it!”

She learned a valuable lesson in following God’s prompting to take the role, and it helped her realize what’s really important when facing a major transition, “Don’t worry about what you bring. Just bring your willingness. God will do the rest.”

Leanne was willing and obedient when, in 1994, after moving here from Illinois, her family visited Northland on the suggestion of the Welcome Wagon Lady in their neighborhood. Yep! They found out about Northland after asking the Welcome Wagon Lady if she could suggest a church. Nearly 25 years later, Leanne works as an accountant, and she and her husband are part of a long-standing small group of Northlanders and neighbors.

She says it’s her love of math that drew her to the position.

“I love numbers! Accounting is like a puzzle, and I love putting everything in its place. I’m definitely a numbers geek!”

Cathy and her family moved to Florida in 2000. They attended Northland that Christmas.

“We came here, and we loved it!” Cathy exclaims. A few months later, they started volunteering on Monday nights and on the counting team. She dove deep into studies and classes and is currently going through “Life With a Capital L” on Thursday nights with John Small’s Bible Boot Camp 2 class.

After several years of volunteering with the Finance Department, she began working here part time last October and transitioned to the full-time accounting clerk role in May. Like Brenda, Cathy wasn’t a fan of math, but she said, “Somehow God brought me into this field. You work with the numbers, but it’s the people who really make me love what I do.”

It’s people like the Ladies That Count, who process the tithes and offerings that come in each week. As someone who started on that team, Cathy is especially fond of this group of volunteers who come in early and give so freely of their time to faithfully help her with her job.

The finance team members all rave about the counting team members. They look at the interactions with them, and among the larger team, much like a bank account. The more deposits they pour into one another, the more their relationships grow and the more they see Jesus in one another.

They admire and are grateful for their commitment, earnestness, honesty and accuracy – all critical attributes for the role. Even more, they are appreciative of the relationships that have formed with this group.

“We are like family,” Brenda shares. They have been through many experiences together – grandbabies, transitions in life, sicknesses and illnesses, even deaths. “We’ve journeyed through the full spectrum of life with these women. Some of them have volunteered to count for more than 20 years! They’re always accepting of new people and even welcomed our first male in a really long time to the team. It’s worked out wonderfully!”

Donna talked about the emphasis on prayer and their diligence around praying for one another each week. At one time, they were all praying for a volunteer’s husband to find a job.

“We were praying for Carol’s husband, who had lost his job,” Brenda shares. “We would pray, and she would keep us updated. Once Glenn was hired, we realized we were praying for him the whole time!”

Donna adds, “They/we have the heart for people we don’t even know. We had a volunteer whose son was in a juvenile detention center. We prayed every Tuesday for him. His mom wanted us to participate in baking cookies for the detention center and write notes of encouragement. We baked all kinds of cookies and wrote a ton of cards, and the family delivered them. We know those people were blessed by it. They are prayer warriors, share everything with each other, and support one another in amazing ways.”

In our current season, this team is especially aware of the financial need we face. Not surprisingly, their attitudes are positive, hopeful and downright confident that Northland is headed into a new, wonderful season.

They emphasize the abundant side of our situation and don’t operate from a scarcity mind-set. As Brenda puts it, “There is a balance between faith and reality. You don’t want to come across as ‘This is where we are. Cut here, and cut there.’ It’s a balance of the stark reality and being faithful and trusting that God will provide.

“Stop looking at the negative, and start looking the positive. I get to see what God is doing with the money. What an honor! I get to help ministry leaders with budgeting and spending in ways that have maximum impact for the Kingdom. We get to be a part of every ministry. It’s exciting!” She goes on to share, “When you look back at it all, you can see God was really orchestrating and putting the right people in place for what was to come.”
    “The trial occurring here is not much different than any other job I’ve had,” Glenn adds. “But I am so grateful I’m doing it here. I sit in service and think to myself, ‘I get to be a part of making these things happen!’”

As in every finance spreadsheet, there is a bottom line, and it’s this: Our finance team is emboldened.

“We are encouraged. I feel the Holy Spirit empowers us to look beyond the hard stuff, and God will honor that,” Brenda says. “As people are equipped to preach and teach, we are equipped with giftings to get through hard times. Somewhere else you might run out, but not here. Deep down I believe He will honor our perseverance. There are a lot of people who need to hear that we are encouraged and renewed by what God is doing here at Northland in this season.

“If the finance team is encouraged, then the congregation should definitely be encouraged.”

God is doing something really special at Northland. He is leading us into a new season with a new vision and a new passion for helping our congregation be fully alive in Jesus!

There are several ways you can be a part of the story God is writing. Consider how you might respond personally to His generosity in your life. Giving your tithes and offerings to the mission of Northland allows you to make a Kingdom investment with an eternal impact.

As finance committee member John Cortines shared in his last sermon, the life-fulfilling dividends are amazing.

Make your gift as a part of your weekly worship of God. It honors Him as our provider and reminds us that all we have belongs to Him and is provided through His grace. It demonstrates our gratitude for the way He cares for us and manifests our trust in Him for our security.

There are three ways to give: 1) at kiosks in the foyer and offering boxes in the back of the sanctuary, 2) online at giving.northlandchurch.net, and 3) via text by texting any amount, followed by the word “northland,” to 45777 to get started (e.g. 50 northland).

Do you have questions about your tithe? Connect with Glenn Garton at 407-949-4000 or glenn.garton@northlandchurch.net.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13 (NIV)