Money autobiography

By Matt DeBall

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Crossovers always have the potential to be energizing and enjoyable. Sometimes they happen on our favorite TV show or in a beloved movie series (special shout out to fellow fans of DC Comics or Marvel). Other times they happen in real life. For your edification, a crossover is happening on the COMPASS blog this week.

This month COMPASS has focused on our relationship with money and invited us to explore this relationship by writing a money autobiography. Marcia Shetler began unpacking this helpful tool and Beryl Jantzi helped us consider four categories that reveal our approach to money, debt management, and generosity. What follows in this blog are a handful of questions and answers related to my money autobiography (that can also help you write your own). A wonderful CROSSOVER has occurred because I didn’t answer these questions alone.

In February, COMPASS explored how essential it is to talk about money with loved ones, live-chat-wedding-rings-image-copyand Rafael Robert from Brightpeak Financial led a great Live Chat about money, marriage, and meaningful conversations. Connecting those conversations with our topic for this month, my lovely wife, Chelsea, has joined me in answering the money autobiography questions below. We answered these questions individually and talked about our answers afterward. While we have different relationships with money, it is our relationship with money together that shapes how we manage our finances. This money autobiography process proved to be meaningful for us, but also allows you to hear two different relationships with money that contribute to our money autobiography. We hope you will find this blog to be as meaningful and helpful as we did.

Question: Describe the role of money in your childhood. What was your attitude toward money as a child? Did you feel poor or rich? How did your perceptions make you feel?

Chelsea: Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot in terms of money. But they never let us know or feel that strain. It wasn’t until we were older that we realized that we were somewhat poor for a lot of our childhood.

Matt: Money served different functions in my childhood. It paid for food at the grocery store. It was the two quarters that my parents gave me each week to put in the offering plate. It was how people supported my Boy Scout troop through buying popcorn. Money was just around. I didn’t feel like my family was rich or poor—just average. My parents taught us to be thankful for what we had and they didn’t talk much about money in front of us.

Q: What was your attitude about money as a teenager? What memories do you have related to money?

C: As a teenager I was obsessed with making money. I had two jobs through most of high dollar-1362243_1280school. I loved having my own money to spend on what I wanted.

M: Money was a means to have fun. It allowed me to buy snacks and games, and participate in activities with friends.

Q: In your current situation, how have other sources shaped your thoughts about money?

C: Nothing has really shaped my thoughts about money. I appreciate it more now that I am an adult with actual expenses to pay for.

M: Society at large and media has influenced me to see some debts as good (homes, college degrees) and other debts as bad (credit card). The church has helped me see money as a tool that God gives us to meet our needs and to carry out His purposes in the world.

Q: How do you feel about your present financial status? Do you worry about money? How does having or not having money affect self-esteem or sense of self-worth?

C: I do worry about money. Mostly because there are things I’d like to be able to buy (a new car) or do (remodel our home) but our financial status keeps us from doing that. Not having as much money as some of my peers does affect my self-esteem. I do find myself getting jealous of those who can buy nice houses, go on vacation, or stay home with their children instead of having to work.

M: I feel proactive and content about our current financial situation. I very rarely worry about money (only when large bills are paid right before a payday). Though I wouldn’t consider it a large factor in my self-esteem or self-worth, our money providing for our needs does have a positive effect on me.

Q: Do you spend money on yourself easily or with difficulty?coffee-1273147_1280

C: I used to be able to spend money on myself with no problems. But recent life events
have made me think more before I make a purchase for myself.

M: Somewhat easily for things under $10 (coffee, lunch, a book), but hesitantly for anything else.

Q: Do you feel generous or stingy with your money?

C: I am generous in terms of gift giving, but I know I am stingy with money. I would hesitate greatly before loaning someone money.

M: It depends on the day, but I typically feel more generous.

Q: Do you give to your church or other charitable organizations? Why do/don’t you give? How does this make you feel?

C: Yes, we give to our church. At first I was very reluctant to do so because I didn’t want to give away our money. But now I am more comfortable with donating to our church.

M: Yes. I like to give because it is an opportunity to show love to God and support God’s important work in the world. Giving makes me feel happy and like I am being faithful to God’s call to give.

Q: How do you feel about asking other people for money…for yourself, a worthy cause, your church community, etc.?gift-1278395_1280

C: I am very hesitant asking people for money. I never want anyone to feel obligated to
give to me based on our relationship and I wouldn’t want my asking for money to affect our relationship.

M: It would make me uncomfortable to ask for money for myself. For my work, I am a fundraiser, and because I believe in the ministries of our organization, I am comfortable with asking people to support them.

Q: Consider the following idea: how you handle money reflects your deepest values. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

C: I agree. What we spend our money on may reflect what we care about the most or what we consider a priority in our lives.

M: Agree because of Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we spend money on anything, it reveals what is important to us.

Q: What future hopes or plans do you have with money?

C: I hope that we are able to continually support ourselves financially. Being independent financially is a great feeling.

M: I hope we can plan to pay off our debts, save for retirement, increase our savings for unexpected emergency circumstances, and increase our giving to church as we are able. I also plan to open savings accounts for our kids early in their lives to prepare for their needs and aspirations in the future.

In addition to answering these questions for your own money autobiography, you can learn more about this helpful tool on Tuesday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET at our next Live Chat “Your relationship with money” led by Mike Little, director for the Faith and Money Network. Sign up while spots are still available at marcia_5.gr8.com.

About the Authors

C&MDeBall-9-15Chelsea and Matt DeBall live in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as office coordinator for a Special Recreation Association, and is pursuing a Master’s of Mental Health Counseling from Judson University. Matt serves as the COMPASS communications coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and as coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary. They enjoy caring for their Welsh Corgi (Watson) and being involved at the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

Taking Something on for Lent

By Timothy Siburg

sanctuary1-copyThis month on the COMPASS blog, we have been thinking about giving something instead of necessarily giving up something for Lent. As we are about half way through Lent now, I can say that I haven’t necessarily given anything more for Lent, but I have somewhat taken something on for Lent.

Getting to know “The Big Red” State

In my work and ministry, I have the privilege of getting to meet people across the state of Nebraska, my new home as of last fall. (I am not a native of Nebraska. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent a few years for seminary and work in Minnesota.) Traveling across Nebraska has allowed me the chance to get to know many new people, new places, new congregations, new perspectives, and in some ways, new cultures too.

This Lenten season I have been traveling quite a bit to meet with different congregations of all shapes and sizes. The one thing I have noticed myself doing even more though, is making room for conversation and especially making room for myself to listen. Listening to one another is a critical part of relationship, service, ministry, and leadership. And as I look at the larger communities and country I live in, it is something I believe is sorely needed.

With that in mind, I guess I have unintentionally taken something on for Lent– more deep intentional listening.

Our Lenten Journey

During this Lenten season, we journey to and through the cross. We return more intentionally in our worship to reflect on the insanity of such a pure gift of life for us, a gift that we can do nothing to earn. We are also confronted by our human frailty on Ash Wednesday, and again when we face death directly on Good Friday. During this season, no matter what separates us, we are each confronted by the realities of life and death which are true for every person.

Meeting a congregation-copy

Meeting a congregation

Every person faces questions of life and purpose. Every person needs to face their own mortality. Most people hope and dream that they can do something positive for their families, loved ones, friends, and communities, and leave a legacy.

I have been reminded of all of this so far this Lenten season by meeting with people across the state of Nebraska. By listening to them, by hearing their stories, I have seen their stewardship at work, but also heard how they are wrestling with their faith in their daily life. It’s a holy thing, this act of listening, sharing, and wrestling.

Some Faith and Stewardship Questions and Wrestling

It takes a level of trust and vulnerability though. Which, not to get too theological here, is probably only made possible because we believe in a God who is and was vulnerable for us, by coming into the world as one of us, growing and living, and then dying and of course being resurrected and ascended. To be willing to be human (both human and divine), our God took on our vulnerability to know us, and to know the good, bad, and ugly of life more fully.

A Nebraska sunset-copy

A Nebraska sunset

This Lenten season, we remember this. I am remembering this every day, when I hear stories of joy, but also of sorrow; when I hear stories of how people are stewarding that which God has entrusted to them; when I hear questions of “why,” or “what does this mean?”; when I can wonder with people about what God might be up to?

I don’t pretend to have any answers. But at least during this Lenten season, I am sitting, walking, and meeting my new neighbors across this state, listening, and hoping to grow in my understanding.

What are you giving as part of your Lenten journey?
Or, like me, what are you taking on?

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: Timothy Siburg

Give Something for Lent

Give Up Something for Lent

By Marcia Shetler

church-535155_1280-copy“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes
he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.“
– 2 Corinthians 8:9

Last Wednesday you may have noticed people with a black mark on their foreheads. Or maybe you were one of those persons. March 1 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season on the Christian calendar. Lent is the 40 days—not counting Sundays—between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Ash Wednesday and Lent have been observed since the early days of the Christian Church. Ash Wednesday’s invitation to wear ashes as a visible symbol of repentance begins a time of a call to remember Jesus’s sacrifice, and to mirror that sacrifice through self-reflection in preparation for the Easter celebration. Traditionally, that has included spending additional time in prayer and study, fasting, and giving up something, like a favorite food or activity.

But what if we not only gave up something, but gave something for Lent? What if Lent was volunteer-1888823_1280more than a time to think about ourselves, but to find ways to turn our sacrifices into
doing good for others?

  • If you give up your Starbucks coffee, can you give the money you would have spent to
    your church or another worthy cause?
  • If you give up spending time online, can you invest it in volunteering?
  • If you decide to fast, eat less, or give up a favorite treat, can you buy some healthy food for your local food bank instead?

In the 2016 issue of the Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine, Maribeth Westerfield shares her story about giving up something for Lent that blessed someone else. A Facebook post from her pastor-friend suggested that instead of giving up food or beverage for Lent, it would be good to clean out closets, garages, drawers, and the like and contribute 40 bags of stuff to a suitable recipient. Maribeth used this challenge as giving-volume-18-cover-5-x-7-150-dpian opportunity not only for giving but for jump-starting her goal of living a less consumeristic lifestyle. While she didn’t gather 40 bags of stuff together, her friend’s church was the recipient of three bags of shoes for their Soles for Souls ministry.

As Christians, our financial decisions should not be just about us:

  • As stewards of what God has given us, we live our lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
  • We give generously and joyfully;
  • And we understand that our faithful stewardship and generous giving is an opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.

What will you give for Lent this year? Your thoughts could be someone else’s inspiration! Share your comments here on the COMPASS blog, or on Twitter or Facebook.

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

One More Resolution- To Share More Openly & Often about Money and Giving

January’s COMPASS focus is financial New Year’s resolutions. Earlier this month I shared some of my own, but today I would like to add one more to that list. My wife Allison and I would like to talk more openly and more often with others about money and why we give. Coincidentally, this past weekend we were asked to share a “ministry moment” about stewardship and why we give at the congregation (Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Washington) we serve. What follows is what we came up with, and what Allison shared aloud.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

My husband, Timothy, and I are happy to be one of the couples sharing why we give as a part of this year’s focus on stewardship. In fact, I really like how Messiah has different people share their personal take on why stewardship is important.

But just to play devil’s advocate, I want to share why it might not be very smart to give:

  1. When you give to the church, it leaves less money for spending on fun stuff.
  2. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually spending.
  3. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually making.
  4. It forces us to sit down, with no cell phones, no laptops, and no TV so we can have an honest-to-goodness conversation about what we value, what we believe in, and what our dreams are.

Money does that.  So maybe there are some good reasons to give.

It’s true – once a month we make a chocolate chip pancake breakfast and talk about our finances and budget, partly because giving is so important to us, and we need to know how big or how little my coffee budget needs to be this month.

We ask each other: “What are the things and groups that matter so much to us that we want to give money to them?”

The first place we think of… is often not church. I’d love to say it is, but often it’s student loans from three different degrees that we’re not even halfway done paying, it’s paying for car expenses that helps us get to the grocery store, me to hospital visits, and helps us drive for an overnight once in a while to our families’ homes three hours north, which we haven’t been able to do in five years.

Yes, all of the things I just listed are things we spend money on that aren’t the church, but in all of this, God is at work using what God first entrusted to us.

At church we hear the message over and over again of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and the good news of God’s love which propels not just our work, but this whole community’s work of love and service in the world. It’s in the giving and spending our money intentionally that we’re giving our money and our lives over to God. That includes tithing and giving money to church, but also to organizations that align with our values like our alma mater Pacific Lutheran University, and money for coffee so I can learn your beautiful stories of struggle and joy and faith, and gas for our car and going to school, tuition payments, using our brains and gifts of compassion, empathy, and hard work.

So why do we give to the church? We give because we are only beginning to understand the depth of God’s love that is shown most potently through faith communities like Messiah shaped by the table, and by Christ’s living water. This stuff matters to Timothy and me.

As a couple, to discern where to give our money to, we listen to God through prayer, music, service, worship, our neighbors, and through each other. We continue to find out how God is at work, and how exciting that is to be a part of it.

Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

About the Authors: Timothy blogs regularly serves as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center with a focus on COMPASS. He also serves at Messiah Lutheran as the congregation’s mission developer. Allison also blogs regularly and serves as the Pastoral Intern at Messiah Lutheran, serving a culminating internship prior to being ordained to be a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Move Mountains

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as regular contributor Matt DeBall, shares some thoughts about January being “A new beginning,” and about praying, saving, giving, resting, and community. 

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In this first month of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

credit given to Glenn Riegel

Majestic Mountains, a photo by Glenn Riegel

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, here are a few ways we can make room in our lives and world for God’s kingdom.

Pray – Whether at home with others or alone on the go, there are many “in between” moments where God is present with us. By using some of these seconds or minutes for prayer, we can be refreshed by God but also be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in every encounter of our day. Making way for God happens not only in action but also in attitude. As we make room for these reflective moments with God, we are made aware of how we can better love others and serve God.

Save and give – Money is an important resource related to almost everything in life, and as people of faith, it is essential for us to be good stewards of it. Though we may not compare making financial changes to “moving mountains,” we can be comforted in knowing that small changes also make room for God. You may consider:

  • Putting aside dollars in relation to what week of the year it is (Week 1: $1, Week 2: $2, …). [Catch up by putting aside $10 before the end of January.] Before next year, you will save nearly $1,400 to give to your church, put in savings, or some of both. OR
  • Collecting spare change and dollars in a jar until it’s full, and deciding before it’s counted how it will be divided for giving and saving.

Regardless of what method you use, imagine how that money could be used to further God’s kingdom in your community and make way for the peace of God’s kingdom in your own life.

Rest – It can be so easy to pack our schedules full with (mostly) meaningful activities. But if we put too much on our weekly calendar, a lack of energy or attention may dampen our effectiveness. For ourselves and for those whom we serve with at work, at church, or in our community, we must be good stewards of not only our time but also our energy. To make way for God’s Kingdom, consider scheduling more time for restful and re-energizing activities.

Community – As we make room for God in new ways, both in our own lives and wherever we go, we cannot do it alone.  Whether a personal goal or a communal change, teamwork is essential to consider. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Whether before or after setting goals, consider whom you might invite to join you on the journey.

May the Holy Spirit reveal how you might move mountains and raise valleys to make way for God’s kingdom in your life and in the world. And may we all experience grace and peace as we strive to fervently love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

Matt DeBallAbout the authorMatt DeBall currently serves as the coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. He and his wife, Chelsea, live with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, in northern Illinois.

Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from all of us at COMPASS! 2016 is going to be a year of continued, new, and exciting conversations. We’ll continue to explore faith, finances, and topics such as debt management, saving, thanksgiving, gratitude, and giving. We’ll also enter into new conversations about shared economies, alternate living situations, pooling resources, and even piecemealing income.

resolutionsTo kick off the year, during January COMPASS Team members and other Millennial guest bloggers will share resolutions, questions, and ideas for financial New Year’s resolutions. To start this month’s series on Financial New Year’s Resolutions, I figured that it would only be fair if I shared some of my own first.

I have to admit, I have never been enthusiastic about New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I have made them and then not followed through:  I’ve just never really made them. I know that they are helpful for some people, but instead of resolutions, I am going to make a few promises to myself. When I promise something, I generally follow through.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Be Healthier

This might sound like a generic resolution, and to some degree maybe it is. But for me, this means more than just making sure I work out regularly. Being healthy also means allowing myself space to be most fully and healthy me, emotionally and mentally. 2015 was a wonderful year of growth and opportunity. My plate filled to the brim with great blessings and opportunities as I have piecemealed income and projects. This is exciting but also means that I end up working so many projects that I hardly ever get a full day off during the week. For my health, sanity, and productivity, I am promising myself that will change in 2016. This may mean occasionally saying no to a project that might have provided some extra financing, as well as to continue to make financial commitments for insurance, health care, and regular doctors’ visits. Being proactive and preventative is a promise for health- both physically but also financially.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Take Some Time to Breathe

Also related to health, I am starting the year with the promise to give myself a little more “me time” each day for reflection, prayer, moments of gratitude, and vocational restoration. A day off each week away from work and projects is helpful for me to be most productive, but taking a little time to reflect each day also enables me to be my best self whom God has created and called me to be. Without taking this time, I can give in to doubt and stress related to life and finances, while not taking the time to reflect and be grateful for all that God has done and continues to do.

  1. I Promise to include Creativity in My Life

I have found that writing and blogging is a way that I stay healthy and mentally charged. By carving out some time each day to write, I will also be giving myself a chance to reflect and see how I am doing and breathe without focusing on other projects and work that needs my attention. This time allows me to create and write, something that I believe I am called to do as part of my vocation and identity as a Child of God. When done with my blogging and “me time,” I will be even more focused, productive, and ready to dive back into my work for that day, and be able to get more done.

  1. I Promise to Continue to Budget and Save for a Honeymoon and Make it Happen
Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

Happy New Year’s from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington- being healthy by taking some time to enjoy it together.

My wife Allison and I have been married for nearly five and a half years now. This is the real confession moment: we have not yet gone on a honeymoon. Because of our vocations, studies, and other demands we moved and started seminary (following our faith calling for further education and preparation for ministry) right after getting married. In the meantime, we have created a few different financial savings account pockets, one of which is for our honeymoon. I am promising to myself that not only will we continue to save for this experience, but at least by the end of the year we will have made reservations to make it happen.

  1. I Promise to Give More

As a late 20-something, I know that my wife and I have a long and exciting life and journey ahead. I’m grateful for that, and that’s why we save as much as we do and budget regularly. This year I am promising to build off of that and continue to give more financially. We’re not “crazy wealthy,” but we’re not starving either. We have been more than able to find the ability to continue to pay off our student debt, give towards our faith community and causes we believe in, and save some. I am happy to say that in each year of marriage we have been able to incrementally increase our giving, and I promise that 2016 will continue this trend as we give more of what has been entrusted to our care.

These are five big promises, I admit. But I think that I can keep them. It might mean giving up an occasional early-morning or late-afternoon meeting for a walk or workout, or taking some time that might have been spent elsewhere to collect my thoughts and write some reflections. Overall though, I believe these decisions will make for a healthier, happy, and productive 2016.

What New Year’s resolutions are you making for yourself? What promises are you making to yourself?

Image Credit: Resolutions

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.