By Tim Schuster
If I had more money, I would…
Just about everyone can fill in that blank. I’m no different. The capitalist idea that more money is better is pervasive. Like the arrow in the FedEx logo, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
I’m not against wealth, per se. For me, it’s simply a secondary concern. The primary question is far more interesting: What does a healthy relationship with money look like?
Of course, we all agree that healthy is better than unhealthy. But does more money enable someone to have a healthier relationship with money? As I collaborate with congregations across the country, I’ve learned three things that help people think about their relationship with money in a healthier way.
#1 Know thy values
Strategic planning has taught me that the process is just as important as the product. When the process is grounded in an organization’s core values and those values guide decision-making and planning, outcomes are always better. Imagine offering a similar process for the individuals and families in our communities and congregations.
The typical financial education program starts with “make a budget.” This misses an important step. Without building a budget on a foundation of core values, we are at risk of building a house on sand. The bigger the house, the more important the foundation. Core values are tools that help people filter out the noise and allow them to stay focused on what matters most.
Giving people the gift of time to reflect on and write down their core values can help them make decisions about where to live, how to earn money, what car to buy, and exactly how much they’d like to give to their church. As the world moves faster, with changes and disruptions coming quickly and often, core values give us “handles” to navigate inevitable twists-and-turns in life. Making financial decisions is easier and even more fun when everything is grounded in core values.
#2 Embrace the feelings
Money is many things, but when we engage with it, we feel emotional. Fully-charged is how I would describe the electrical circuits between my bank account and the hairs on my neck. We feel money before we think it. Consider this: One survey found that 7 in 10 have cried about money at some point in their lives. Look no further for relevancy.
Money is real, relevant, and emotional. It’s an ever-present way of being connected to the areas of our lives that matter: job, family, school, and faith. We can use the money conversation to jump into just about every area of one’s life. Looking for a holistic ministry program? Start with helping people tend to their financial lives.
With this in mind, I applaud the amazing congregations I’m working with who refuse to throw a quick-fix (such as a budget or a debt-elimination program) at a problem without digging to discover underlying triggers and unresolved issues.Their hard work of engaging the real issues will clarify the role of money in solving the problem. Together we are boldly entering into the emotional world of money because in so many ways the emotion is the ministry.
3. Give it All Away
Personally, I’d rather listen to paint dry than listen to a theological debate about the correct amount of tithing.
On this, I take my cues from my colleagues who are thinking missionally. They start with a different question. What is God doing in the world to bring restoration and redemption—and how can my community and I be part of it?
This question didn’t mention stewardship, tithing, or generosity. But it’s in there.
While discipling people into stewardship and generosity can be agenda laden, generosity, I believe, is at its best when the questions are framed around God and faith. .
- What is God doing in the world? My neighborhood?
- How can I use the money I’ve been entrusted with to join in God’s activity?
- How can generosity help me grow?
These questions help us think holistically. Every transaction—whether a small donation or buying local—makes a declaration about what’s important and what matters.
On one hand generosity keeps the mission sustainable. On the other hand, it is a ministry tool we can leverage to help people grow in freedom because we are never more financially free than in the moments we freely let it go. Generosity is our way of saying to money, “You are real. You are important. But you are not in control. I’m aligning my values with what God is doing in the world to bring redemption and restoration. Now I’m going to prove it by freely letting you go. Thanks for your contribution, see you next time.”
The more is better agenda pervades our land, it’s a breath of fresh air to partner with churches to equip individuals and families with new ways to think and feel about money.
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
About the Author
Tim Schuster is the creator of 6 Weeks on Money, a platform that enables churches to offer a 6 week digital course and group study that leads to a new way of thinking and feeling about money. He lives in Minneapolis with his partner Kelsey and their two young daughters.
Photo by LightFieldStudios.