I grew up in church. I was there at least three times a week and was thrilled to add a fourth when I finally got old enough to attend youth group. Discipleship, as I remember it, focused on reading your Bible every day and praying. I remember learning that being a Christian means you act differently than the world around you. Be kind when others were mean. Help other people, and witness to your friends. Discipleship focused mostly on outward behaviors.
Money was not really discussed as a part of discipleship. There was the occasional sermon on tithing where the pastor would encourage us to give God our “first fruits.” Giving God the first 10 percent of your income was essential. I can still hear the echoes of, “Show me your checkbook and I’ll show you your priorities!”
The lesson I learned was, “Be thankful for the money God has given you, and be sure to give Him 10%.” It appeared that the rest of “my” money was mine to do with as I pleased. Christian discipleship did not to include the other 90% until I was well into adulthood.
Why don’t we talk about personal finances more often? Maybe preachers talked about money too much in the past. Maybe the topic is taboo in our culture. Maybe there are other more pressing issues to address. Could shame be a factor? After all, it is hard to teach others to do something that I struggle to implement in my own life without feeling like a hypocrite.
A 2019 financial survey of U.S. Nazarene clergy revealed that 52% do not feel good about their financial future, and 37% feel overwhelmed by debt.
In 2016, the Church of the Nazarene conducted a survey of U.S. pastors regarding attitudes and practices of financial management. Nearly all pastors, 95%, agreed that biblical financial management principles are essential components of discipleship, but less than half of them feel qualified to teach these principles. In fact, nearly 60% indicated that they could use some training themselves in managing personal finances. A 2019 financial survey of U.S. Nazarene clergy revealed that 52% do not feel good about their financial future, and 37% feel overwhelmed by debt.
Perhaps, as pastors and leaders, we need to take a serious look at our own financial stewardship. The COMPASS Initiative has numerous resources for leaders to improve their own financial literacy and well-being. We also have matching grants for ministers’ personal debt reduction and retirement savings. The ministers that have participated in the COMPASS Initiative programs have reduced their debts, increased their savings, and gained confidence in teaching and preaching about financial stewardship.
Whether you are a clergy member or a lay leader, now is a good time to examine your own financial practices. Is personal financial management a component of your own Christian discipleship? Are you financially free to follow God’s call? Are you addressing biblical financial stewardship in your teaching? There are many useful tools in the COMPASS Academy to help you honor God with the finances and ministry that He has entrusted to you. Make time to explore these budgeting materials, debt management resources, retirement planning guides, financial Bible studies, and more.
As leaders in Nazarene churches, let’s bring all of our finances under the lordship of Christ. Let’s manage the resources we have as if they were God’s, because they are. Let’s wade into the deep waters and teach our youth that “their” money is actually God’s money, and it matters how we manage God’s money.