the shape of leadership

Funding the Work of Ministry

A conversation with Eric Treuil

Kristi Northup on February 24, 2020

It’s no secret that funding for ministry has become more challenging in recent years. National trends in church and nonprofit giving are seeing declines, and that is showing in missions giving as well.

How do those who have traditionally depended on monthly support find new ways to fund Kingdom work, while still focusing the bulk of their efforts on the work of ministry?

A few years ago, my husband, Wayne, and I were amazed as we walked through the Chi Alpha location on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus. Eric Treuil, assistant superintendent of the Louisiana Network Ministry who was serving then as campus pastor, told us the story of Chi Alpha UL.

Treuil was a theater student who experienced a radical conversion during college. He and his wife, Anabelle, who is originally from Panama, met through Chi Alpha.

The Chi Alpha at Lafayette meets in a beautiful former Lutheran Church with a coffee shop and discipleship spaces, a soccer arena that local teams utilize, a parking lot where students rent spaces, a dormitory that serves leaders, and a house where the campus ministry started.

Treuil talked with us about how God opened the door for each space, explained the fundraising and creative approaches that enabled Chi Alpha UL to become debt-free, and shared his heart for discipleship and the impact on the local church.

Wayne and I were so inspired that we asked Treuil to lay hands on us and pray that God would show us new funding streams and open up ministry in ways we hadn’t imagined.

In addition to his district position, Treuil now serves as executive pastor for Chi Alpha UL. I recently talked with him about this Chi Alpha group’s creative approach to funding.

Kristi Northup: What kinds of ideas have you pursued to creatively fund ministry?
Eric Treuil: We continue to redefine the funding model, working toward a combination of income generated through the on-campus location, and support from individuals and churches. Our ministry is Chi Alpha, but it can work in other settings as well. We started in this house, renting it as a meeting space.

“As we’ve grown, we’ve looked around and found creative ways to use what God has given us.”
— Eric Treuil

When we had the opportunity to purchase the property, we raised the $90,000 in 90 days from friends, family, churches, anyone who would help us. It came with a dormitory space that we’ve used to house and train leaders, which has been an income source as well.

God spoke to us and [asked], “What is in your hand?” As we’ve grown, we’ve looked around and found creative ways to use what God has given us. So you can see the partnership between support and income generation. Each property we have obtained has been multipurpose. It allows us to do ministry, partner with the community, and generate income.

What are ways U.S. missionaries can develop the relationships necessary to build their support base?
It starts with being a team player. We see students come to faith in Christ who are not predominantly from an AG background. Any Chi Alpha people will be integrated within our Fellowship. We’re more powerful together than we are separate.

All our Chi Alpha people are active in their section and their network. They will be there. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. When you show up consistently, people realize, “He is one of us. She is one of us.” We don’t just want to ask for support; we want to be a blessing to the team.

As a result, we now have several current and former Chi Alpha leaders serving as presbyters and district officials, and relationships with pastors and churches who grow to recognize the value of Chi Alpha to the local church.

What are the keys to multiplying this philosophy through new leaders?
For healthy transgenerational ministry to succeed, we need to set the next generation up for success. We have an internship program that is statewide, where we mentor young leaders in ministry and fundraising.

Since a majority of students don’t come from an AG background, their individual giving is broader than just the members of AG congregations. Many of them now serve not only in Chi Alpha and other full-time ministry roles, but also as marketplace professionals. By serving even for a year or two after college, they develop a lifestyle of generosity and giving.

We also have to give a helping hand where young leaders need it, and not leave them with a mess. Last year, I stepped down as the local campus pastor at UL and turned the local ministry over to a former student and intern. I’ve stayed on as the executive pastor over the business side of things, allowing the new young leadership to grow into their new roles.

I refused to step down from this role until the ministry was 100% debt free. It is absolutely wrong to saddle the next generation with debt. It’s one of the ways we help set them up for success.

Is it possible to for missions to go to greater heights? Absolutely. Can we re-imagine ways to fund the call of God? Yes we can. He makes a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
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