In the late 1970s, Florida real-estate developer Howard Dayton had one goal: "To get rich," he recalls, "and not just a little rich, but filthy rich." Then he met Jesus Christ. Ever since, the developer-turned-ministry-leader has pursued a different kind of wealth—the "true riches" Jesus referred to in Luke 16: "If...you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?" To Howard Dayton, no greater riches exist than "knowing Christ intimately."

 

A few years after his conversion, Howard wrote a small-group curriculum aimed at helping others learn to separate the false riches from the true. That study became the flagship resource of Crown Ministries, an organization Howard launched in Orlando in 1985. Crown's multi-week study, for use in groups of 8-12 people, focused on both theological and practical issues related to finances. Homework involved studying and memorizing Scripture, and implementing personal-finance projects such as developing a workable budget.

In 2001, Crown merged with Larry Burkett's Christian Financial Concepts, creating Crown Financial Ministries. The new organization melded Crown's small-group emphasis with CFC's well-known media ministry. After Larry's death, Howard took over Larry's position as the radio voice of the ministry, hosting the popular Money Matters program from 2004-2008, while also serving as Crown's CEO.

After leaving Crown following a 2008 leadership shakeup, Howard decided to refocus on small-group studies, and in 2009 launched a new ministry called Compass — finances God's way. The ministry's mission is to "equip people worldwide to faithfully apply God's financial principles so they may know Christ more intimately, be free to serve Him and help fund the Great Commission." So far, Compass has introduced four small-group studies, including its core guide, Navigating Finances God's Way. (The SMI newsletter will offer excerpts from this study in 2012.)

A SMALL-GROUP STUDY FOR COUPLES

The latest Compass resource is Money and Marriage God's Way, a six-week small-group study that focuses on marital issues such as setting common goals, resolving money conflicts between a husband and wife, and recognizing the impact that debt can have on a marriage relationship. Memory verses for the study include Ephesians 5:33 ("Each one of you Money and Marriage God's Wayalso must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband") and James 1:19-20 ("Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.")

"God designed marriage to be a blessing," Howard says. "He intends married couples to use money — even challenges with money, even crises with money — to bring them closer together rather than separating them."

The Money and Marriage study has received a strong endorsement from popular radio host and author Dave Ramsey, who calls the study "an absolute must do" for couples. Florida couple Doug and Colleen Allen say the study has had a huge impact on their relationship. "We're now on the same page financially, communicate well, and have almost reached our goal of becoming completely debt free."

Howard notes that developing the Money and Marriage study has had a positive impact on him too. "Even after 40 years of marriage to Bev, writing this study helped me to become a much better husband!"

OTHER RESOURCES

In addition to the two small-group studies already mentioned, Compass offers studies aimed at discipling business people (the Business by the Book study) and helping people of significant wealth manage their resources in a godly way. Compass also has materials to help teach children and teens how to manage money wisely.

The ministry is experimenting with creating a small group experience online, allowing participants to connect via video feed. Compass is also expanding internationally. The ministry's main study, Navigating Finances God's Way, is being used in India and rollouts to other nations are in the planning stages.

After a three-year absence from radio, Howard Dayton returned to the airwaves in March when Compass rolled out a six-day-a-week call-in radio program, MoneyWise. The program pairs Howard with co-host Steve Moore, who served as co-host of Money Matters for 20 years. MoneyWise is heard on more than 400 stations and outlets.

To learn more about Compass — finances God's way, visit the ministry's website.