We’ve all heard the stories of rags to riches. Deep down many leaders wish it would happen to them. The problem is most of them live on incomes that don’t rock Wall Street.
Before we get too far let me be sure it is clear. This is not a prosperity article. This is not about somehow naming and claiming money for its own sake. This is about being a wise steward. Even those leaders who may not be naturally inclined in the arena of money can learn to be smart with their money.
Here’s the reality. It takes money to live. The other reality is it takes money to give. I have yet to find a deeply devoted leader who doesn’t love to give. So wouldn’t having more money help us to those ends?
While some people do not feel motivated by money they do realize it is a whole lot easier to live on $80,000 a year than $35,000. They realize that to have health insurance and retirement is better than to not have it. They realize that to buy a house and save for college, weddings, vacations and make personal investments in retirement it takes money.
Let’s think about this. Many leaders are familiar with Christian philanthropists who make major gazillion dollars of gifts to ministries. Imagine what it would be like to be able to bless a ministry in a substantial way. Imagine a young church planter who needs a boost and you have the capacity to give it to them. Imagine what it would feel like if you could give a major sum to a ministry that is reaching people in ways you may not be able to do personally. It all takes money.
Whether a leader is young or old there are some basic principles of money that bear consideration as they move forward in ministry.
- Pray for the favor of the Lord on your finances. This is not a self-serving prayer. This is a prayer of stewardship.
- If you are a student pay cash for college. Yes that probably means you won’t be done by age 22. So you finish at 27, who cares? You are better off to be 27 with a college degree, rookie employee and no debt than to be 27 with a college degree, 5 years of experience and $60,000 in debt. Think about it.
- Tithe – Give 10% to the Lord’s house. I’m amazed at the number of people who want to argue about the 10%. I say, “Get over it and do it.” I have one pastor friend of mine who says he would tithe even if he weren’t a Christian because he has learned that it is a principle that works.
- Live on 80% of your income. After you give 10% to the church then save 10%. If you have trouble getting this started then start saving 2% or 3% with a systematic plan with one year to get to 10%. You must put a plan in place because it will not happen by itself.
- Use cash whenever possible.
- Use only one credit card and pay it off in-total every month.
- Never take on a 30-year mortgage. Only do 15 years or less. I know the argument is that we will do a 30-year and make extra payments. The problem is wives start getting pregnant, kids expenses start up all the way through college, kids get married, medical emergencies happen and the extra payments don’t. If you’re in a 30-year, do your research but getting into a shorter one will save you thousands of dollars.
- Never buy a new car. Buy two-year old cars and older. Again, do your research. Don’t buy a car simply because your dad always bought that car or your brother-in-law tells you to do so, unless your dad and brother-in-law have done the research for you. The magazine, Consumers Reports is your ally here.
- Pick up the book Smart Couples Finish Rich and read it. You may be hesitant to think in terms of finishing rich. Just think of it as finishing as a good steward. There. Feel better?
Slow and steady wins the race. Do not approach this stewardship issue like you do fast food. This is a decade-long endeavor certainly for the 20-30-40 something leaders’ families. Even for those over 50 it is an effort that will take time.
If you will follow the items listed here you will be well on your way to a life able to pay the bills. You will experience a life so fulfilled with giving to the church and ministries, that you’ll stand amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness to you.
Good leaders finish as great stewards!