Stewardship coaching is rewarding, but it’s not always easy. Several factors can combine to complicate the process; some of these can be foreseen and others just have to be dealt with as they arise. In this article, we’ll explore some of the more common issues that can arise throughout the course of the coaching process and relationship and offer guidance in addressing them.

Before we begin, though, we need to highlight the importance of prayer throughout the coaching process. The focus on life transformation and glorifying God is what distinguishes Christian stewardship coaching from other kinds of financial advice. And this transformation occurs as God works in answer to prayer.

So pray. Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17); pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7); pray in faith (James 1:6). Pray for wisdom (James 1:5), for God’s provision (Matthew 7:7-11), and for God to give your clients a heart to honor him in all things (Colossians 3:17). Ask God to guide your own understanding as you seek to serve your clients.

Charting the Course

As we mentioned above, some difficulties in the coaching relationship can be foreseen and at least partially forestalled from the beginning. Clearly establishing expectations for the coaching relationship and process can help prevent misunderstandings as you go, and can serve as the basis for course corrections when needed. Let’s look at a few key items you can address from the beginning that will help guide the process.

Agreement (between spouses)

Many coaching relationships will involve a married couple, and when this is the case, it’s important that both spouses agree on the coaching process. It’s a little like counseling in this way – if one spouse sees the need and the other doesn’t, it’s not likely to work.

You can get a sense of whether both spouses are committed to the process by asking a question like, “Why do you feel that you need stewardship coaching?” Make sure each spouse answers. If one person gives a vague answer, they’re likely just going along with their spouse and may not have any real commitment to the process. Address this up front. If one spouse has a clear vision for what they want to accomplish through coaching, get that spouse to articulate the vision and determine whether the second spouse shares it.


Ensure that the nature of your relationship is clearly understood from the beginning. As a coach, you’re there to instruct and guide – but not to provide counseling, make decisions, or do the work for your clients. And certainly not to litigate arguments between spouses!

A covenant signed by both you and your clients at the beginning of the relationship can help clarify roles and boundaries and can serve as a guidepost when boundaries are in danger of being crossed.

One quick warning here: if there is a relationship outside the coaching relationship (eg, if you’re coaching a family member or a friend), then it becomes even easier for boundaries to get blurred. In general, it’s best to coach people you do not know well personally, to help keep the boundaries clear.


Your clients must be committed to the process if it’s going to work. Undoubtedly, they’re going to need to make some changes in their handling of finances. They need to be willing to make these changes in order to get on solid footing financially.

They also need to be committed to doing the work. You’ll be giving them homework assignments as part of each meeting, and you need to know that they’re going to complete those before the next meeting; otherwise, progress will stall.

One way to set your clients up for success in this area is to have them go through a stewardship program such as FreedUp prior to beginning the coaching relationship – or, at worst, as an early part of the coaching process. Working through a stewardship program provides a couple of important benefits:

  1. It teaches the client key concepts so that the coach is able to assume more the role of mentor and guide rather than teacher of basics. This can save a lot of time and get the client on track much more quickly.
  2. It demonstrates that the client is willing to do the work. If a client is not willing to go through such a program, this may be an indication that the client is expecting the coach to do the work for them; consider this a red flag.

Again, a covenant signed by both you and your clients can bring clarity to the commitments you’re both making and help set the expectations from the start.


A coaching relationship can flounder if a definite direction has not been outlined from the beginning. This includes clear goals from the client, responsibilities of both parties, a cadence for meetings and expectations regarding homework, etc.

Goals should be defined in such a way that you’ll be able to tell when they’re met. A goal like “retire debt” isn’t sufficiently clear – it doesn’t say how much debt or when it will be retired, etc. A minimal reduction in the balance of one credit card probably doesn’t meet this goal!

Clear goals also help you understand whether or not the goals are attainable within the context of your coaching relationship. Most coaching relationships last from 4-6 months (although this is not a hard-and-fast rule). If your clients want to retire $30,000 of debt and they’re cash flow negative, they probably won’t meet that goal within a 6-month period. Goals should be accomplishable (though not easy!) within the timeframe of the relationship.

Individual client goals will vary, and some clients may approach a coaching relationship without a clear goal – if asked, they’ll say something like, “We just want to make ends meet!”  In this case, you may need to help them clarify some goals based on their financial situation. Do this by asking questions – not by making suggestions as to what their goals should be. You want the goals to be theirs, not yours.


Define from the beginning what “done” looks like for your coaching relationship. This could be any combination of timeframe, goals to be accomplished, disciplines put in place, etc.

Having a deadline helps in a number of ways. First, it keeps the client from being surprised when you tell them that this will be your last session! But more importantly, it serves as a yardstick by which you can measure progress and an incentive to complete assignments.

For example, you might agree on something like: “Our goal will be to have you on a balanced spending plan and on a debt reduction plan within the next 2 months. By the end of 6 months, we will look to have retired X amount of debt (or a number of credit cards, etc.). At that point, we will consider our relationship a success.” (Again, the goals should be defined by the client; you just want to make sure that “done” is defined.)

You may also want to set expectations for early exits, so that your clients aren’t surprised if this comes up. For example, if a client isn’t doing the work, there’s really no point in continuing the relationship. If a client consistently misses or postpones meetings, that may be evidence that the process isn’t working for them. So a statement like, “If we find that this process isn’t working for you – for example, you’re unable to meet regularly or to complete agreed-on assignments – we’ll end the process and potentially start again later when circumstances have changed.” A statement like this signals to the client that you’re serious about meeting the goals of the relationship.

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Course Corrections

Even if you define all this at the beginning, a coaching relationship can require some course corrections along the way. This can happen for any number of reasons; the important thing is to recognize when an adjustment is needed and make that update sooner rather than later. The longer you wait to make a needed course correction, the harder it will be to get back on course.

Agreement Issues

One spouse thinks they should be saving more; the other spouse doesn’t see how that could happen. One spouse constantly worries over debt; the other spouse feels nagged about every dime they spend.

When spouses disagree on the numbers in their spending plan, the issue isn’t usually the numbers. It’s that they each have different values when it comes to money. These values are formed by their money backgrounds (how their family of origin handled money), their money motivations, and their life priorities. So to help spouses resolve these disagreements, it’s often necessary to take a step back and help them understand the underlying issues (both their own and their spouse’s!).

Sometimes, you’ll spot something in the spending plan or in their spending records that will flag an issue that needs further discussion. For example, suppose that childcare for three children is eating up all of one spouse’s income. The couple could probably save money by having that spouse stay at home with the children (and this might also help in other areas like the eating out budget). The spouse in question may set a high priority on career, and that may not have been previously communicated clearly. Digging into the reasons behind the numbers can help spouses uncover key priority discussions they need to have.

Note: Don’t take sides in these discussions. The best course of action is to ask questions that help identify issues and consequences, and allow the couple to weigh the pros and cons.

Boundary Issues

When a client crosses a boundary, it’s important to flag that right away. Reestablishing boundaries after they’ve been ignored for a while is much harder than maintaining them along the way.

If you established clear boundaries at the beginning, you can recall those to help the relationship stay on track. If you didn’t, you can still address any boundary issues by simply saying that you’re not comfortable going in the direction they want to go. Examples might be asking for advice on non-financial matters, straying into areas of counseling, etc. If you believe that your client needs help that you cannot provide, consider referring them to your church’s counseling service or other ministry to assist them.

Generally speaking, avoid lending money to a client. This blurs the boundaries more than anything else and can prevent the client from taking the steps necessary to straighten out their own finances. One of the first things clients should be doing is establishing an Emergency Savings fund to help with immediate needs. If your client hasn’t done that because the relationship just started, consider referring them to your benevolence ministry. And if the client has delayed an Emergency Savings fund despite your guidance, then this could be a commitment issue.

One final word – a stewardship coach should never financially profit from the coaching relationship. This is a serious boundary violation and potentially could damage the integrity of the coaching ministry. If you have a client in need of financial or investment advice, you might recommend a referral service – but avoid taking on a fiduciary relationship.

Commitment Issues

Commitment issues can take many forms, including:

  • Consistently failing to complete homework assignments
  • Regularly canceling or postponing meetings
  • Refusal to make necessary spending/lifestyle changes
  • Refusal to participate in a stewardship training program
  • One spouse lacking commitment to the process

Regardless of the reason, if you sense that there are commitment issues on the client’s part, consider pausing or even ending the relationship. Sometimes, clients will enter a period of unusual activity and may have less flexibility in meeting schedules. Other times, a client may get busy with other things and de-prioritize their financial progress. You may be tempted to help out by doing some of the work for the client – but don’t. You’re teaching them to fish, not fishing for them. If they choose not to learn to fish – for whatever reason – then coaching won’t effect change in their stewardship.

Short of this, you may decide to cancel a scheduled meeting because a client has not completed a previous assignment. Whatever route you take, don’t be afraid to call for commitment on the part of the client. Stewardship is part of discipleship, after all, so it requires character traits like perseverance. If that’s lacking, pray for the client and call out the need for greater commitment.

Direction Issues

At times, you’ll need to shift directions a bit in the coaching process. Maybe a client begins the coaching process unemployed but then finds a well-paying job. The specific stewardship paths may need to flex a bit to meet new situations.

But the basic coaching process remains the same. Beware of directional changes that move you from stewardship coaching into other areas like financial advice, investment counseling, etc. At times you may need to recall the roles you agreed to at the beginning of the relationship.

A client may also experience a life situation that calls for a significant change in their financial goals. Be flexible in approaching these situations but also beware of changes that shouldn’t affect overall financial goals. Clients may sometimes use a change in circumstance to justify not pursuing a key stewardship goal like retiring consumer debt.

When you sense a change, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on how to respond as a stewardship coach. When goals need to change, make sure that the client clearly articulates the new goals. You should both have a sense of where the coaching process is headed.

Exit Indicators

Any of the above can indicate that it’s time to pause the relationship or to exit the it entirely. Sometimes, people sign up for stewardship coaching without understanding what they’re getting into – and as they get into it, they realize that it’s going to take more work than they’re willing to put in. Other times, life situations change. Be as flexible as you reasonably can with these, but sometimes a new life situation means that a client is no longer available for coaching.

The coaching relationship will normally be more demanding in the early stages and less so as time goes on. In the last couple of months, a monthly check-in may be all that’s needed to ensure that a client is still on track with recording spending and managing to a spending plan.

Sometimes, a previous client may call you with a specific stewardship issue or question after your coaching process has ended. Feel free to respond as God leads you in these situations, but don’t assume that you have signed up for a lifetime commitment to every client! This can become a boundary issue if it continues, so just be aware of that.

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Staying On Course

Good stewardship coaching is about two things: relationship, and process. Setting the direction clearly and making adjustments as needed will help you serve your coaching clients most effectively. Keep the following keys in mind as you begin and continue your coaching relationships:

  • Agreement: If coaching a couple, make sure both spouses are on board at the beginning. Be sensitive to disagreements that might arise and help them dive more deeply behind the numbers as needed.
  • Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries at the beginning and maintain these boundaries throughout the relationship. Remind the client of these as needed.
  • Commitment: Establish the client’s commitment at the beginning of the relationship through a covenant. Monitor their diligence in completing homework assignments and their willingness to make lifestyle adjustments in pursuit of key stewardship goals.
  • Direction: Ensure that the client has clear goals for the coaching  relationship. Evaluate these goals for reasonability in the context of the coaching process. Be flexible when situations change but help the client to maintain focus on key goals.
  • Ending: Begin with the end in mind – agree on what “done” looks like for the coaching relationship. Don’t be afraid to exit the relationship before all the goals are accomplished if needed.

The Stewardship Coaching Journey

Ultimately, stewardship coaching is all about helping your clients honor God in their finances and in their lives. And that’s more of a journey than a destination. Clients will have different specific needs and goals for the relationship in order to begin the journey well. You’ll help your clients set a course on that journey, but they’ll travel most of it after your coaching relationship has finished.

Not all coaching relationships will end in “success” as measured by the goals you set at the beginning. Sometimes, goals will need additional clarification during the coaching process; sometimes, they’ll need updating based on changes in life circumstances. And sometimes, clients simply won’t follow through on the assignments needed to reach those goals.

From a coaching standpoint, a better measure of success is faithfulness. Faithfulness first of all to God, as you pray for your clients and seek God’s wisdom for them. Faithfulness to your clients as you walk the first few steps of the stewardship journey with them. And faithfulness to the coaching process as you guide your clients into key Biblical truths and give them practical tools.

Your clients aren’t the only ones on a journey. As a coach, you’re also on a journey – a journey of serving God, serving your clients, and growing in wisdom and experience. Each journey you take with a client will add to your expertise and experience, benefitting future clients. Take note of the issues you encounter and how you address them. Use a tool like a Client Progress Report to help you record each client’s progress and any potential setbacks. And pray not only for your clients, but also for yourself. Ask God to continue to equip you on this journey. Pray for growth in wisdom (James 1:5) as you seek to help clients live out Biblical stewardship.

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