When was the last time you counseled someone through a difficult decision? Yesterday? Last week? Likely it was sometime in the recent past! Although there are decisions where the answer is black and white, don’t you find that most hard decisions are nuanced and require you to access wisdom as you shepherd and lead people?
Financial decisions are the same way. Very infrequently do they fall into straightforward categories of being financially “good” or “bad.” This nuance is partly due to the fact that money issues are always symptomatic of heart issues. To make a great financial decision, it’s entirely likely that someone will need to traverse the hidden places of the heart, examining motives, fears, hopes, and even shame.
In addition to that, financial decisions can get so complicated because in our financial lives, we are always allocating unlimited resources to limited alternatives. In short, most people get stressed when they realize the interconnectedness of every financial decision, knowing that shifting one thing in their spending will come at the expense of many other possibilities.
So how can you, a pastor or church leader, help someone make good financial decisions? Is there a reliable process that you can guide someone through?
We at the Ron Blue Institute think that the answer is yes. While you may not be a financial planner, you are a wise and trusted spiritual counselor. And from that vantage point we recommend you do two things:
First, help the person think about their heart motives. Ask them, “What are you trying to accomplish with this decision?” Help them to move beyond the obvious answer to the heart-level answer. For instance, someone’s decision about buying a new car might actually be about empowering their teenager with greater responsibility and independence. Or, someone’s decision about a plan for paying off their debt might actually be about gaining new rhythms of self-control and accountability in their lives. Once you’ve identified the “issue behind the issue” you can help them address the heart level issue in wise and creative ways, perhaps opening up new alternatives about the dollars and cents part of the decision, too.
Secondly, if they’re willing, help the person walk through the steps of financial planning so that they can more accurately navigate the interconnectedness of their money decisions. In Master Your Money, Ron Blue has outlined a four-step process (summarize your present situation, establish your goals and objectives, plan to increase your financial margin, and control your cash flow) and has given examples, teaching, and worksheets to complete each step. If someone you’re counseling is willing, they can walk through this process over a 2-3 month period with relative ease. That way, next time they encounter a financial decision, they will have a better grasp of where that decision fits into the bigger picture of their financial life.
At the Ron Blue Institute, we delight in helping church leaders like you have more confidence as you communicate and counsel about money! Visit our website to see some of the resources (most of them free) available to you today!