April 7, 2019

Stewardship Conversations: Financial Coaching

This month our conversation with Sid focuses on the area of financial coaching.

GS: How important are financial coaches in helping believers who are struggling with stewardship?

Sid: Stewardship coaching isn’t just about money, it’s about a person’s relationship with God.  It has to do with matters of eternal significance!  Together with participants, removing money as a rival god that professes to be all powerful and to provide ultimate security allows financial coaches an opportunity to replace the false god of money with the omnipotent true God who offers the only real and lasting security and peace.  Therefore, coaches are able to help others in powerful ways.  When money is no longer a rival god, people are freed up to relate to God and to serve God in profoundly new and deeper ways.  And coaches get to be a part of God’s liberating work!

 

GS: Do you know any churches who have implemented an effective financial coaching program?  How did they do it?

Sid: Those churches successful in implementing a financial coaching ministry are able to tie its importance to transforming finances AND transforming lives.  Often the church leadership has participated in the coaching program and can easily promote its value of helping move participants closer to Christ through obtaining an increasingly sound financial stewardship mindset.  The coaching ministry is then tied to a key part of the church’s vision and mission.

Further coaching often becomes part of a broader year-round stewardship ministry including coaching, classes, announcements, etc. which effectively promote teaching (the what and why of stewardship), training (the how of implementing Biblical financial principals in daily life), and encouragement (toward changing the habits of a lifetime in the face of a culture that continues to send very seductive messages).

Ultimately, stewardship ministries are most effective when they are integrated across ministry lines.  For example: Membership – becoming a member has responsibilities as well as rights.  Some churches encourage participation in the stewardship ministry as a part of obtaining membership. Pre-marriage – since money is one of the top conflict areas within marriages and a major contributor to divorce, part of pre-marriage preparation is often Good Sense training. The list could go on and on as stewardship cuts across many ministry lines.

 

GS: What characteristics would you look for in a potential financial coach?  How much financial expertise is needed?

Sid: It may surprise you to know that one’s vocation or the amount someone has in the bank have little to do with being a successful financial coach.  The overarching and most important qualification to be a financial coach is that that they are personally continuing on a journey to serve from a heart pointed to Christ and with a steward’s mindset. Financial expertise can be helpful, of course, but most people in financial trouble don’t need significant expertise.  They need Biblical guidance and someone in their corner.

A good financial coach understands and can communicate three fundamental Biblical truths about stewardship:

  1. God created everything
  2. God OWNS everything
  3. God retains ownership of everything he created; therefore, we are trustees of his possessions

In terms of financial tools, a  basic understanding of financial practices around budgeting is the primary financial tool a coach needs to help those who are struggling financially.

 

GS: What advice would you give to people who are considering becoming financial coaches?

Sid: There is a tremendous need for folks like you to come alongside people who are struggling with thinking about and implementing stewardship principles in their lives.  As you serve participants, you will be relieving tremendous stress and anxiety caused by consumer debt, aiding marriages torn by the conflict over money, and restoring self-esteem and confidence.  There are few things more life-changing for the individual than managing their finances out of an act of worship to God. A coach’s role doesn’t stop at helping with financial principles but extends to the spiritual development of their participants.

As people open themselves to exploring this area of their lives, coaches have an important role to play!  Money is a very emotional subject.  Participants may have feelings of fear and anxiety as they come to the process. Coaches can be instrumental in making them feel at ease with the assurance that the process itself takes a very grace-filled and non-judgmental approach.

 

GS: Who would be good candidates to receive financial coaching?  How would you promote the idea to them?

Sid: Coaching participants usually fall into one of four financial situations.

  1. Crisis: Those who are experiencing serious financial problems, requiring immediate help and ongoing encouragement and assistance.
  2. One paycheck from disaster: Participants who aren’t experiencing an immediate crisis, but are living from paycheck to paycheck.  They sense that their debt is too high and their savings too low.  However, they are often lulled into a false sense of security by the cultural message that everything is okay as long as they are making minimum payments on their debts.
  3. Good “financial” shape: Those who are not in consumer debt, are saving on a regular basis, and are investing wisely.  From a purely financial standpoint, they are good money managers.  But they haven’t yet grasped the vision of leading a financial lifestyle from a Biblical perspective.
  4. God-honoring lifestyle: Those who have applied Biblical financial principles to their lives.  They understand that they have been entrusted with what belongs to God, and they are handling their finances in a God-honoring way.  Coaches are drawn from this group!  Our ultimate goal is that everyone who engages in coaching will eventually be in this category.

As you’d expect, people in the first two categories can benefit significantly from financial coaching.  A financial coach can help them discover key principles and practices to get their finances in order, often bringing a measure of relief quickly and, even more importantly, bringing hope resulting from a path that leads to financial freedom.

But financial coaching isn’t just for those living on the edge financially.

Greg had been a very successful investment banker for 21 years before he was led to Christ by his friend John.  One of John’s first suggestions was that Greg meet with a Good Sense coach.  Greg was annoyed since he was a financial services professional but he did it out of obedience.  Greg couldn’t believe the life-changing experience the coach provided or that there were so many Biblical principles of financial management.  It was a huge eye-opener.

On a practical level, Greg admitted he and his wife had never budgeted. Their income stream was so large that they pretty much spent whatever they wanted and there was money left over for investing, so what was the big deal? For the first time they began to track their expenses and, not surprisingly, they were quite astounded at how much they were spending in some areas that now, in light of their new-found faith, were no longer important to them.  They adjusted their spending habits and that freed up money for them to become more generous in their giving.  They began to experience a new-found joy that comes with generosity.

Greg’s wife worked in the heart of the city in a high pressure executive level position and took the 6:30am commuter train every morning from their suburban location so as to arrive at the office by 8:00.  Several months into their new found financial insights, she announced that since it was clear they didn’t really need her income, and since she really didn’t like her job, she was quitting!  She got a job with a Christian law firm near their home and she and Greg, for the first time in their married life, had breakfast together and shared God’s word as they began their day.  Their marriage blossomed in new ways.  Greg realized that he and his wife are clear examples that the stewardship ministry is for everyone at all points along the financial continuum!