It’s possible to develop bad habits in our church leadership. For some of us, I’m afraid one of these habits is complaining about the giving habits of young adult members. Rarely do these conversations appreciate the realities of underemployment, student loans, and other economic shifts. But, as Grace Duddy Pomroy points out below, there’s a great hunger for conversations about money in congregations—especially when there’s no “ask” involved. I hope more congregations might make room for financial education in their life together. It would probably benefit their financial bottom line, but that’s not always the point.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Talking About Money When Not Asking For It
Grace Duddy Pomroy
A few years ago, I had the privilege of conducting focus groups with young adults in congregations around the Twin Cities on the topic of money and stewardship. I assumed that the participants would be hesitant to discuss these topics, but I was wrong. These young adults actually thanked me for starting the conversation because it gave them a safe space to talk about faith and finances where they didn’t have to be concerned that someone would ask them for money. They were eager to learn how to handle their money better as people of faith.
As congregation leaders, we know that stewardship encompasses all of a person’s life not just what they give away. Yet, too often, we focus solely on the small portion people give to the church. We neglect to discuss the larger world out of which people are living and giving – the financial barriers in people’s lives that prevent them from being as generous as they would like to be. Many -- especially young adults -- face barriers like student loan debt, saving for retirement, and simply making ends meet. By opening up conversations about faith and finances and offering financial education to our congregation members, we can help free people from some of their financial barriers and better live into their calling as stewards.
One challenge with offering financial education is finding resources that are credible and faith-related without marketing a specific product or service. One of the greatest joys of my ministry as Financial Education Specialist at Portico Benefit Services has been growing the range of financial education that we offer to our plan members. As the benefit ministry of the ELCA, we want to help church leaders show up as financially confident advocates in their ministry settings. Talking about money confidently from the pulpit begins by having confidence about how you’re handling money at home.
With this in mind, we’ve been working to develop financial seminars and webinars that help our plan members to build their financial knowledge and take steps to navigate financial challenges with confidence. In the last year, we have offered webinars on topics ranging from retirement readiness to debt repayment. We hope to continue expanding our offerings. While these webinars are designed for Portico plan members, anyone can access them online and use them in their congregation.
Want to begin offering financial education in your congregation? Start by leading a conversation about faith and finances. See which financial topics your members gravitate towards. Maybe parents want help talking about money with their children in a faith-based, conversational way. Maybe retirees want to discuss how to be generous while living on a fixed income.
Look for opportunities that fit with what your stewardship ministry is already doing. For instance, if your stewardship team is looking to reach young adults and you find that student loan debt is a large burden for them, look for ways to open up conversation on the struggles of being a generous person when you have a mountain of debt. You might show an excerpt from the recent Portico webinar on debt management, which outlines debt repayment options and features resources like Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling that can help people make a plan for their student loan debt.
As congregations we are called to care for those in need. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console the grieving and yet when people struggle with how to handle money -- whether they’re drowning in debt or struggling with how to be a person of faith who is also wealthy -- we ignore them. So, let’s speak out. Let’s host open conversations about faith and finances where there is no agenda to ask for money. Let’s offer financial management courses that help people be better stewards of everything God has entrusted to them. Let’s help people live and give with confidence.
For More Information
Grace Duddy Pomroy is the Financial Education Specialist at Portico Benefit Services – the benefit ministry of the ELCA. She is the co-author of the recently published book, Embracing Stewardship, and author of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide resource “Stewards of God’s Love.” She worked as student assistant and Assistant Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders from 2010-2013.
Practical Resources for Churches is offering several webinars on Stewardship & Finance this fall. To see individual topics, and to sign up, visit their website.