Stories are comically endless about youth workers not having money and getting paid in heaven some day. Certainly for too long the church overworked and underpaid their youth specialists, but that day is slowly changing. As churches grow more diverse and more segmented on Sunday morning, they are looking more and more for leaders who can develop students and minister to parents, and they are beginning to recognize them with better pay.
Regardless of how much you are paid, you do not have to live one step above the stereotypical poor college student. Financial peace is a spiritual issue. Having financial peace and security can free you to minister better to students. It changes something in your soul, and it is attainable, but it’s not about the math. It is a spiritual issue. Jesus spoke about money more often than almost any other topic, and the Bible treats it very seriously even calling it a master. The problem is not how much money you make, but who is in charge, you or the money. Therefore undertaking the quest for financial peace begins with prayer. Just like overcoming any other temptation, or struggle, you have to surrender. If you are not prepared to count the cost, and willing to submit to the Lord in this area of your life, then the principles found here will not help you. You must first examine your heart. You must ask God to change your heart about wealth about possessions, and about money. </span>
The Big Lie
Unfortunately, we buy in to the hype. Experts are hired by banks and paid big bucks to sell you an incredibly affordable product called debt. We act so grateful when the bank gives us a loan, a large credit balance, and a slightly lower rate or no minimum payment. We act as though they have done us a tremendous favor, when in reality they have sold us something: A payment. They are experts at making us want the latest and greatest at no money down and no payments until 2020. What we are buying is the necessity to work. The beginning of financial peace is not buying the lie. Some of the lies around debt are “Everyone has debt”. “New cars are cheaper than maintaining an old one.” “Ninety days same as cash.” The list is endless.
If you want to truly be free to follow the calling God has placed on your life, then ask yourself, if God called you to the ministry of your dreams tomorrow, but you would make no money for three months could you go, six months? Or would you find yourself enslaved to the almighty VISA.
The big lie is that you will always have debt. The big lie is that you deserve that 40” big screen. You do not have to always have to have debt that is a lie engineered by those who want you to borrow their money and pay them the interest.
The first step to financial freedom is living on less than you make. Living on less than you make means winning the battle with the person staring back at you in the mirror. It means being able to wait for those really cool toys until you can unroll the cash. I will never forget the time I paid cash for my iPod. The look on the cashier’s face was, to borrow a tagline from the credit companies, “priceless”. His comment was, “No one has ever paid cash for an iPod.” I had scraped those twenties together for months and it was a lot of fun counting them out in front of the incredulous cashier. I could have put it on a card months earlier, but I waited. I tell you this story because this type of thing truly isn’t normal anymore. Paying cash is considered weird. The desire for stuff can be just as much a spiritual issue as struggling with any other thing you really want that you know you shouldn’t have. We tell students all the time not to listen when their friends say, “everyone else is doing it.”, but that is the very logic we use when it comes to car payments and credit card bills. I am sure you will not burn in the pits of hell for having debt, but the Bible says that the borrower is slave to the lender. Living on less than you make means you cannot spend money you do not have. In other words, do not borrow money.
Living on less than you make means you need to know two vital pieces of information. How much you make, and exactly what your expenses are which leads us to step two.
The second step to financial freedom is having an intentional plan. Some of us have these amazing five point visions in full color PowerPoint on how we are going to reach and disciple every student in our community, but we have no idea how we spent our last paycheck. Having a financial plan is as important as any other strategy to reach a goal in any other area of life. We cannot just stop eating out as much our way to financial independence. A real financial plan means sitting down and spending every dollar we are going to make this month on paper before the month ever gets here. Yes, I am talking about a budget. That word is cursed. It’s a spending plan. It is not how you are going to be cheap, it is a written plan of how you are going to spend your money, and that includes how you are going to spend some on yourself. Ladies and gentlemen, that is called savings. Just like in ministry any plan is worthless if we just write it down and stick it on a shelf. It has to be binding. We have to live according to the plan. We do this all the time in our ministries and in our own spiritual walk, but we refuse to do this financially often because we are fundamentally selfish about our money. We want stuff and we do not want God to tell us how to live in that area of our life. Jesus is Lord of everything, but our bank accounts.
At some point you have to sit down and total up how much comes in each month and then list item by item how much you are going to spend. This should be done with your spouse! Even if you are the one in charge of the finances, they will know of an expense you don’t, and the communication over something as vital as money will enrich your marriage. If the spending is higher than the income you have two choices: Generate more money or spend less. Ed McMahon is not showing up at your door. As you work through your spending plan, you will find out that it takes a few months to iron out the kinks. If you have good records of spending over the past few months write your plan from what you average on things that fluctuate like power bills. And if your spouse is not on board, they will intentionally or unintentionally wreck your efforts.
The third and most radical step. You do not need a credit card or any other debt or line of credit. I know this is part where this gets weird, but if you are living on less than you make and have a plan, you do not need them. For all the things you would use one for (shopping online, making reservations, paying at the pump, etc.) you can use a debit card. Cut them up, now. Even having them open for emergencies is like an alcoholic having a beer in the fridge just in case. Some of you are asking what about establishing credit? This is another lie from the banks who are trying to sell you debt. They tell you that you need credit so you will buy their product!! Even when it comes to buying a house, if you have a decent down payment, have lived in one place for a year, and have a stable source of income you can buy a house. A credit rating is a bank product they are trying to sell you. Also, psychologically, handing a cashier a twenty and watching them break it hurts far more than the card swipe. I cannot count the number of times I have passed on stupid purchases because I did not have enough cash on me. The research shows that we spend 25% more money when we shop with plastic than we do with cash.
It’s All About the D:
These steps take one important ingredient: Discipline. You have to have the commitment to carry through with your plan. You might even need to find an accountability partner to hold you to the plan. Sticking to this plan is essential to ever walking out of the slavery of debt once and for all. Because I live this stuff I recognize some of the things you will have to sacrifice. You won’t drive the newest car or surf the web on the latest mac. You might not buy a house as soon as your friends. But, how bad do you want to be free? Besides how long would it take to pay cash for some of those things if you aren’t paying at the almighty alter of VISA every month? How much could you pay yourself in retirement or give to your church if you don’t have to give up $300 on your car payment? Total your debt payments for each month and then imagine that amount being free to spend or save or give as you wish. That is freedom.
So, here are the first steps to financial independence:
- Commit to God with your spouse that you will live on less than you make. Prepare your heart for subjecting yourself to God, commit to the stewardship he has called you to, and then determine where you stand. What is your income and what are your expenses? Ask for his help as you develop this new discipline in your life.
- Have a financial plan. Spend every dollar you make on paper before the month ever starts. By knowing this you can begin to make your money work for you.
- Destroy your credit cards, and close the accounts. Write down a list of everything you owe that stands between you and freedom. (Not including a mortgage).