Report: Believers Stewardship Services: History of a Largely Unseen Work

December 29, 2020
Nathan Giffiths

Since the inception of the church on the day of Pentecost many believers have started ministries of all shapes, sizes, and scope. Some of these ministries existed for long periods of time, others only until a need was met. Some became well recognized on a national or international scale, others operated in seeming obscurity. These ministries have typically begun with an individual, or a group of persons seeing a need in the church or their communities, and having a desire to meet that need for the Lord’s glory. Believers Stewardship Services (BSS) began this way, with a burden given to David [Dave] Allison.

Dave was born in Angola, Africa in 1941 to Scottish missionary parents. He was schooled in Northern Rhodesia, present day Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia, present day Zimbabwe, where he became a certified Trust Officer with a large trust company. His work had him engaging in estate planning and accounting.

In 1975, Dave and his wife Lorraine moved from then Southern Rhodesia, to the United States. Dave came to work as the Business Administrator of Emmaus Bible College and served the college in that capacity for 16 years. During this time, he felt burdened to start a trust service for assembly believers. It was becoming increasingly apparent that believers were living more of the “American dream” than the life of stewards. And for those that were trying to be good stewards, there was very limited, biblically based assistance for them.

As early as 1978, a friend of the college encouraged him to assist assembly believers with their stewardship responsibilities and thereby enable them to support the Lord’s work. The realization of this burden was put on hold for a short time with the move of Emmaus Bible College from Oak Park, Illinois to Dubuque, Iowa. With his burden still growing, Dave was given the blessing of the Emmaus Bible College Trustees in 1985 to establish a trust services program.

Emmaus Trust Services (ETS) was launched in January 1991. The early days of the ministry faced many challenges from matters such as a lack of funding to misunderstandings regarding the nature of the ministry. Despite this, a focus was maintained on assisting believers who desired to be good stewards of the resources with which God had blessed them.

The ministry continued under the banner of Emmaus Trust Services for ten years. In 2001, the Emmaus Bible College Trustees reviewed many reasons to establish the ministry as a separate charitable entity that would better serve the assembly constituency and ministries. Thus, Believers Stewardship Services (BSS) was incorporated.

The original focus of the ministry had been trust services—helping individuals and families use estate planning strategies to effectively steward their resources for when they were called home to heaven. They continue to provide this service to this day. While assisting clients with estate planning, it became apparent that many could also benefit from planned giving assistance. Planned giving finds creative solutions for individuals and organizations to support the areas of the Lord’s work that are important to them. As the team at BSS began to help in this area one of the greatest privileges of the ministry began to take shape. We witnessed the enormous generosity of God’s people flow through the ministry and out to His servants as they engaged in spreading the gospel and building the church. Planned giving continues to be the largest area of our ministry and with the Lord’s blessing continues to grow in helping believers support His work.

In the early 2000s, as our planned giving programs continued to grow, we received many inquiries about providing financial planning services to believers. These inquiries again were born out of a recognition that there were few biblically based options available for believers to utilize in this area.

In 2009 BSS became a registered investment advisor offering investment advisory services. These services were offered until March 2020 when a separate investment advisory business was formed and spun off from BSS. It was named Stewards Advisory Services and continues to serve the investment needs of the Lord’s people and several assembly ministries.

Throughout its history BSS has maintained a small core of staff members, and for many years much of the work was shouldered by Dave, his wife Lorraine and Drew Tuecke. The Lord provided attorneys, trust officers and financial professionals as there was need and to the benefit of His work. In January 2015, Dave stepped back from the position of president and the role was filled by Robert Sullivan, who was already on the board of directors. With Dave continuing to serve his client base, Rob has strived to maintain the work Dave began and to enhance the ministry. In the last five years, the ministry has heavily invested in technical infrastructure development, staff augmentation and growing the service areas that BSS operates in. Today the ministry’s staff work all over the continental US from New York to Los Angeles.

An additional area in which BSS has begun to serve is compliance and regulation. It was recognized that in the twenty-first century our assemblies and ministries do not necessarily have easy access to legal assistance—BSS has attempted to bridge that divide. We have helped new ministries incorporate and attain 501(c)(3) [charitable] status, as well as assist established ministries with strengthening their organizations. A regular area of assistance is helping assemblies review their bylaws and make necessary and timely updates to ensure they can continue operating lawfully and compliantly within their state. Not only do we look for areas that may be missing or could be updated but we also strive to make sure that they address and provide protection for current issues in society that could affect a local assembly. Such things include facility usage policies and child protection policies.

In 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic creating incredibly uncertain times for so many, we have been able to help many assemblies, ministries and camps navigate the challenges and changes to our society bought about by societal changes. We are thankful to the Lord for experienced staff members who have been able to adapt quickly to the changing environment around us and provide value to the work.

With the Lord blessing and furthering the work of Believers Stewardship Services in the United States, a sister organization was established in Canada in 2017. Legacy Ministries Canada equips Christians as they steward God’s resources. They teach biblical stewardship, support and strengthen evangelical Christian ministries, and provide charitable giving opportunities through the Legacy Donor Advised Fund. Legacy Ministries is still in its infancy and developing a service platform for the assemblies in Canada.

As our ministries continue to serve, we would ask that you support us in prayer:

Pray that we would continue to minister to the glory of God.

Pray that we would have wisdom and discernment in serving the Lord’s people.

Pray that we would be able to respond well to changing needs in our society that affect NT assemblies and ministries.

by Nathan Giffiths