Few areas in our lives are as sensitive as personal finances. And especially for ministry leaders and their families, it’s often a quick path to stress, uncertainty, and frustration. Sometimes we don’t know where to start with our financial problems or questions. Other times, we may not realize bad habits until we’re deep in a problem. And then there’s the consistent trend of a pastor’s paycheck not yielding the greatest chance for financial security. It can feel overwhelming.
Yet no matter how much or how little we earn, we are responsible to be good stewards of what the Lord provides. So, as we begin this conversation about finances, we’ll focus on the key element of stewardship. It’s about more than just money.
Stewardship includes taking healthy care of ourselves so we can be there for others. Some pastors feel it is unspiritual to think of their own personal financial well-being. They sometimes feel selfish saving up money for a rainy day or even future retirement. But when we consider the truth of Scripture, we find these are good practices. The Bible is clear about practicing wisdom when it comes to our resources (Prov. 6:6-8). We shouldn’t shy away from wise, financial responsibilities.
Perhaps the three-fold adage of John Wesley says it best: “Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”
Some of us are in tight financial situations. Some are looking for a place to begin. If so, the following 5 suggestions can help you begin to flourish financially–one dollar at a time! (Suggestions taken and adapted from Ron Blue Institute website below, along with other financial resources.)
- Make automatic deposits.
Have your paycheck deposited into multiple bank accounts, one for spending and one for saving. For savings, no amount is too small to consider! Even $10 per paycheck. Are you paying attention to how your money is deposited? Have you started a savings plan? If not, what are the factors (or excuses) that hold you back? Is it possible for you to overcome even one of those obstacles?
- Make automatic investments.
Take advantage of automatic investments from your paycheck (401k, stock purchase plan, etc.). Or make automatic debits from your checking account shortly after your check comes to an investment account. Many report how surprised they are and how painless it is to invest in this manner.Are you taking advantage of savings opportunities offered through your bank or church? Have you considered consulting a financial planner? Do you have a trusted, financially knowledgeable friend to whom you could go for financial advice?
- Build a “no-brainer budget.”
This is simple and it works. Take your monthly income after taxes and subtract your giving funds, debt payments, savings (for retirement, education, etc.) and live on what remains. Decide what you can cut out where you can. Are you living beyond your means? Do you borrow too much? What can you do today to begin spending less than you actually earn?
- Practice a spending fast.
Every month or so, fast from a few unnecessary monthly expenses (eating out, clothes, etc.) and save the funds to see how much you accumulate by the end of the month. How much do your spending habits hold power over you? For instance, can you give up the lattes for a couple weeks? Can you pass up the sale flyers for your favorite brands for a month? Consider making such a fast a truly spiritual experience by dedicating that effort to the Lord. Take a step of faith and rely on God to overcome any unnecessary spending habits.
- Determine where your money is going.
For one month, track every receipt. Every one. This will tell you where your money is going. You might be very surprised! Best of all, you might identify a couple places where you are overspending or needlessly spending. But you might not ever know unless you track your spending for one month. You can then decide to redirect that money to a savings account or other investment. Will you take up this challenge to have your household save every receipt for one month? How might such knowledge affect your spending? What are the positives that could come from such an exercise?
Getting serious about financial best practices can be challenging at first. But as you continue, you’ll be able to quickly see how it’s an avenue of worship to God as you steward the resources given to you. Even if it’s a small step, begin today!
The following sources are excellent places to start learning more about personal finances: