The Joy of Paying it Forward

“WE ARE ABOUT MUCH MORE THAN CHICKEN!” Denise Martinek, owner of the Chick-fil-A location in Calallen stated. “Our employees are at the heart of everything we do.”

In 2019, Denise moved to the Corpus Christi area to manage her first Chick-fil-A location and chose the Calallen area. Once established, she searched for a chaplain to enhance the overall well-being of her employees. Friends recommended Pastor Raul Elizondo from New Life at the Cross, and after interviewing and mutual prayer, Pastor Raul volunteered to fill that position. Denise also recognized a need shared by several employees for financial management skills. Pastor Raul recommended STCH Ministries and the Faith & Finances class.

Faith & Finances is uniquely positioned to teach basic financial principles and their impact on relationships. It begins with the fundamental truth that Jesus is making all things new, including our money and our relationships. Whether in a family, in a church or in a marriage, financial issues can cause stress, resentment, jealousy and even depression. However, with knowledge and correct application of key principles from God’s Word, wise financial management strengthens relationships. Individuals learn how to make a spending plan that works, manage debt and loans, improve their credit scores, set goals, prepare for the future and overcome past mistakes.

For eight weeks, the faith-based class was offered on Sunday afternoons in the empty Chick-fil-A restaurant. A diverse group of 16 individuals enrolled, including a father and son, a single mom and her oldest daughter, while younger siblings played outside, joined by Denise and her manager. For those who volunteered to attend, a small incentive was given for perfect attendance.

Jackie Caldwell, a certified STCH Ministries facilitator, agreed to teach the class, supported by Jimmy Rodriguez, director and Alicia Tijerina, site coordinator. Jackie’s background made her the ideal person to lead this one-of-a-kind class. Retired after 38 years as a teacher and administrator with the school district, Jackie also leads Enlightenment Counseling, a resource for training and professional development for the work environment. Her years of experience have convinced her that effective teaching must be interactive. “What the students DO, they will understand and remember.” In every lesson, the students participated in an activity that reinforced the financial principles they were learning.

Some of the activities included a Wheel of Fortune game, fill-in-the-blank as a team, drawing a picture that represents core teaching and “pay it forward” with a bag of gold coins as they shared with another person. Every participant made a list of their priorities, and each week they evaluated their expenses to eliminate one thing that didn’t fit their goals. They learned from each other and grew in their ability to trust and support one another.

A core principle emphasized during each class was, “God wants to use our money to accomplish His purposes in this world.” As the restaurant owner, Denise shared that she prayed, “Okay, God, how do you want me to do this?” God’s answer was confirmed during the graduation celebration as employees shared what they had learned, their wins and the impact of the class.

“I never realized the impact of finances on my relationships.”

“I had enough money, but I was just wasting it in small and bigger ways.”

“I redirected my passion for coffee by purchasing a frother, buying locally and sharing it with others.”

“It works! It works! For the first time, I was able to start a savings account.”

“I never went to church before but during this class, I decided I needed the teaching and support of a church family.”

In Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Faith & Finances partners with churches and community organizations to connect people with God’s plan for their finances. The “battle of the budget” is not one confined to low-income families. The insatiable appetite for more, conflicting interests and priorities coupled with inflation are all exacerbated by the pressure of time. When next month’s paycheck is spent before the month begins, how do we get off of this treadmill? A re-assessment of God’s plans for our finances can lift our eyes above the immediate to an eternal perspective. As one doctor’s wife reported, “I knew I should tithe 10%, but I always thought the rest was mine to spend. Now I realize that God owns it all, and He wants me to be a good steward of these resources.”

Churches are often frustrated by efforts to reach people outside the church walls. Unfamiliarity, prejudice or fear of commitment seem insurmountable obstacles. Following Jesus’ example in Luke 14, they are able to minister to the needs of hurting people by offering “bread” to satisfy the hunger of their lives. Faith & Finances is uniquely positioned to help churches set a banquet table of strategies based on Biblical principles. Members can invite those “lamed” by life’s circumstances, and teach practical life skills, find support through the church and grow in their personal relationship with Christ.

First Baptist Church in San Antonio became aware of a large number of Burmese refugees in their community, and the daunting task that each person faces—language, jobs, housing, schools, culture, faith. Where to start to be the hands of Christ for them? Among other outreach efforts, FBC sponsored a Faith & Finances class for Burmese pastors and leaders. At graduation, they shared, “We had to escape for our lives, then live in a refugee camp for years. Banking? We don’t understand how you do that! Now, thanks to STCH Ministries, we can help our communities in their own language with their finances.”

Oak Hills Church in San Antonio has partnered with STCH Ministries Faith & Finances to integrate and undergird their discipleship and mentoring programs. The principles of Faith & Finances have brought dramatic life change to the initial 19 students, coupled with additional follow-up support from the church that encourages debt repayment and savings contributions.

Desperately understaffed, community organizations call to ask, “Can you help us reach this community?” In Houston, we have teamed up with Attack Poverty, a Christian non-profit that empowers individuals to break the power of generational poverty. San Antonio Hope also addresses the root causes of poverty to help the community become holistically sustainable. They have incorporated the Faith & Finances course into their offerings.

In Corpus Christi, an increasing number of classes are held for parents of children in public schools. School administrators recognize the chaos of the family system that inevitably impacts their finances. Since the teaching is faith-based, the classes are held after school and often in nearby venues—apartments and fellowship halls of nearby churches. With little or no teaching available in the traditional school curriculum, they hope that a faith-based curriculum might offer a lifeline of strategies to support the change that is so desperately needed.

In every city, the opportunities and ministry sites for Faith & Finances are unlimited and increasing. The Faith & Finances ministry staff cannot begin to meet those needs without the assistance of trained and certified facilitators, like Jackie Caldwell. When asked why she dedicated the time to teach, Jackie said, “It’s about paying it forward. I didn’t grow up knowing what I know now about finances. I see the joy of students reaching their goals, and I feel God is pleased!” Please pray for this need of more facilitators and visit for more information if you would like to serve in this ministry.