Money, marriage, and faith

By Matt DeBall

When my wife, Chelsea, and I were preparing two-2042416_1280-copyfor marriage, our church asked us to
participate in a pre-marriage counseling course. This included meeting with a more experienced married couple who could mentor us. Many topics were discussed through seven learning sessions and four or more mentor meetings, but conversations that I remember most now were about managing money together. In particular, Chelsea and I learned about how each of us view money, and our mentors shared that the earlier we started to save money for the future, the better.

Because of how values, memories, and emotions surround money, it’s no wonder that managing money in marriage is important to get right—to care for one another and plan your lives together. Thankfully scripture offers at least three helpful insights for handling money together as a couple.

1. “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).
bicycle-1868162_1280-copy
These words of Jesus are important when considering offerings to the church, but are also relevant for personal finance. Do you or your partner enjoy reading books or magazines? These are likely to be included in your expenses. Do either of you enjoy biking, camping, fishing, or skiing? How about baking, painting, sewing, or woodworking? Money will surely be spent on items to carry out these interests. As a couple plans their financial present and future together, it is important to budget and plan for life-giving hobbies together. Talking regularly about money and special interests allows each person to feel loved and appreciated—both for being able to participate in desired activities and feeling respected by knowing about special purchases.

 2. Whoever loves money never has enough;… This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). There’s no doubt that money is essential in life, but it isn’t most important. Though conversations and planning may difficult for a couple that has one partner who is primarily a “saver” while the other is primarily a “spender,” at the end of the day, your love for one another will surpass your love for anything else, including money. Keeping your love for one another in focus while talking about money will help you work together and care for each other regardless of how much money is in your bank account.

couple-1838940_1280-copy3. “Be content with what you
have, 
because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never
will I forsake you’”(Hebrews 13:5).
Finding contentment together and trusting God can improve any financial situation. Trusting God with your finances and regularly acknowledging that God provides for your family will help you keep money in the right focus.

Prayer is a good practice that reminds us to trust in God, especially when money is involved. You may consider praying the following prayer together before future money discussions:

Loving and generous God,
Thank you for all that we have. We are grateful that you have met all of our needs and continue to provide for us. Please bless this conversation about money and help us to be good stewards of what you have given us—for our good and your glory.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

What scriptures help you manage personal finances?

About the Author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and Chelsea live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

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’ve read? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Money, Marriage, and Millennials: Significant Relationships, Important Roles, Meaningful Conversations

rose-1215314_1280By Marcia Shetler

Ah, February! The shortest month of the year. The time when we begin to believe that spring might be right around the corner. And when there is a day designated to celebrate and appreciate the significant others in our lives.

How couples view and manage money has an impact on the health of their relationships. Conventional wisdom says that a quick way to squelch a happy occasion with your partner is to raise the subject of money. However, recent reports and studies indicate that may be changing. A 2016 survey by Ameriprise Financial found that 77% of couples are in basic agreement about their finances. And there’s even better news for Millennial couples: a 2016 Chase Bank Generational Money Talks Study shows that they are much more comfortable having conversations about money, thanks to more openness of their Boomer parents to discuss money with their children as opposed to earlier generations.

The Chase study also indicates that Millennials understand the important role money plays in their lives. It reports that 78% of Millennials follow a budget, 77% say that they adult-1807617_1280-copyhave confidence to make complex financial decisions, and 64% are optimistic about their financial future. Timothy Siburg, who is a Millennial, a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee, and a frequent contributor to this blog, has shared examples of how he and his wife Allison personify these statistics. They make regular, meaningful conversations about money a priority, such as their monthly pancake breakfasts to discuss their finances.

So Millennials, give yourselves a collective fist bump, high five, or pat on the back. This month, the COMPASS Initiative will give you more ideas and great content to make those important money conversations even better. Each week new articles here on the COMPASS blog will provide practical ideas, personal reflections, and spiritual insights. Follow our Twitter feed and join us on Facebook all month long for great curated content. And view our resources on the COMPASS web page for even more help and guidance. Add your questions and comments to make for an even more enriching exchange of ideas!

live-chat-wedding-rings-image-copyFinally, you won’t want to miss this month’s COMPASS Live Chat on Monday, February 20, 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific. Staff from brightpeak financial will share some great ideas for making your money conversations even more meaningful. Just connect to the Chat on February 20 with this link: stewardshipresources.adobeconnect.com/compasschat217

Stewarding our God-given relationships and resources is one of our most essential responsibilities as followers of Jesus. The COMPASS Steering Committee and I look forward to engaging with you as we meet each other on Facebook, Twitter, and at our Live Chat!

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

Talking about Faith and Finances- Purchasing a New Home

During September, the COMPASS blog is digging deeper into the topic of conversations about money by sharing different perspectives, questions, and approaches. As we continue the series today, I am excited to welcome my friends Pastors Amanda and Jeremy Ullrich to the blog. They have very recently purchased their first home which led me to want to hear their story. Today’s post is the second in a two-part series which focuses on their recent experience of buying a new home. 

Timothy (T): Amanda and Jeremy, why were you looking for a new home?

Amanda and Jeremy with their Realtor outside of their new home

Amanda and Jeremy with their Realtor outside of their new home

Jeremy (J): Well, we have been renting a house since we arrived in West Texas a little over a year ago when Amanda and I moved here to start our first calls as pastors. We wanted to make the investment in a new home for a number of reasons, including potentially expanding our family.

T: What did you learn when running the numbers and doing your research?

J: When running the numbers, we realized that the cost of renting for two years was basically the same as buying a new house and making a monthly mortgage payment for two years, and then selling it after two years.

Amanda (A): We also realized that we could save over $400 per month by buying a home rather than renting, including the cost for utilities and the mortgage. We live in a relatively inexpensive housing market with lots of good options, which made searching for our first home fun and full of possibilities.

J: We determined that after three years of buying our first house, we would save about $10,000 that first year, and then nearly $30,000 after the fourth year. The long term potential savings for us was a big reason to decide to buy a new home.

T: Were there any other factors in your decision to buy a home, rather than rent?

A: There is another element in our decision. In ministry, pastors often move at least a few times in their careers, and of course we have no idea how long we’ll be here until we might feel a call by God to some other context. We feel though that by buying a home, rather than renting, we are demonstrating to our congregations and the community that we are investing in the area for the longer term.

J: As we discussed, planning for the future is important for us. We’re still learning, and have not always been the best at financial planning, but we are working at it.

A: And we’re trusting God, and grateful that we are surrounded by such gifted friends, family, and colleagues who help us along in our life, vocations, and continued discernment about our faith and finances.

T: What lessons or tips would you like to share about buying a home and talking about faith and finances?

Gratitude overflowing- New Homeowners Amanda and Jeremy with the previous owner of their home (and the previous owner's family).

Gratitude overflowing- New Homeowners Amanda and Jeremy with the previous owner of their home (and the previous owner’s family).

A: It’s important to take time and be grateful. It can be so easy to get caught up in life, and feelings of scarcity, of not having enough. In buying the house, questions of ‘what if’ about the air conditioner, and water heater potentially needing to be replaced, or about other things that might need to be fixed came up a lot. I could have gotten buried in those types of questions and thoughts. But I’m grateful that some wonderful flooring workers helped us learn more about our new neighborhood. They also helped us take stock, and see that our new home is really a good house. This helped me remember to give thanks.

J: We have come a long way from starting out in our first place, that one bedroom apartment at seminary in Minnesota.  I’m still so grateful for that time, and especially our fun and frugal occasional $5.00 pizza dinners with friends. We’re also very grateful for all of the scholarship support that helped us get through school, and for the faith and gifts of others, who have given to the ELCA Fund for Leaders, people who have given freely because of their faith. We would love to pay it forward, and hope that by having our own home, we can make that happen in some way.

T: Do you have any other thoughts, questions, or insights you would like to share?

J: The biggest question for me seems to be, how do we steward that which we have been entrusted with?

A: We are grateful for the opportunity to have a house, after starting our marriage in a one-bedroom apartment in seminary. We are also grateful for all the support that we have received in the past from so many different people, congregations, and groups. We hope to be able to pay it forward.

J: We are also tithers, and we hope to be able to distribute resources and gifts to more places and needs.

J: Buying a home is more than a purchase for us. We believe we are investing in something. We are committing, at least for the near term, to being rooted in one place. And we continue to work and hope that we can be able to be good stewards of all that we have received.

Pastors Amanda & Jeremy and their dog Lola

Pastors Amanda & Jeremy and their dog Lola

About the Interviewees: Amanda and Jeremy Ullrich are a clergy couple in West Texas, both serving their first congregational calls as ordained pastors. Their family currently includes their wonderful dog, Lola. Together they are tackling the world’s largest puzzle, which includes approximately 33,600 puzzle pieces, because “everything is bigger in Texas,” and “why not go big or go home.” While attending Luther Seminary, they lived next door to Allison and Timothy Siburg, and that was the start of a beautiful friendship.

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.

Talking about Faith and Finances during Life Transitions

During September, the COMPASS blog is digging deeper into the topic of conversations about money by sharing different perspectives, questions, and approaches.

Inside our car while moving cross country

Inside our car while moving cross country

Talking about money can be hard under what we might consider normal circumstances. But it can be even more difficult to do during times of life transitions.

My wife Allison and I have just gone through one of these times as we have moved across country and started new jobs. Allison is serving as a pastoral intern in a congregation and I am serving as the congregation’s mission developer. These are exciting roles, but their hours, expectations, and location are new and different.

Our new jobs have changed our budget for the longer term. But we also had other one-time expenses like moving costs, costs related to starting or ending services (like utilities), and insurance changes.

Because transition times can sometimes come unexpectedly, you may face expenses that you did not anticipate. Allison and I had to move before the end of our former apartment lease. That made for some hard conversations and choices. In order to make the leap into our new grand adventure, we had to pay to break our lease at our former apartment. Our budget and savings took a noticeable hit.

I believe it was the right thing to do, and I am grateful that Allison and I have done it. However, it was not an easy process. It helps knowing that we did this in part because of a call into new ministry roles. It helps also because of how welcoming our new faith community has been, and how doors have just opened to opportunities and relationships. All of these feelings are great, but they don’t solve the issue or challenge of talking about money.

How do you talk about money- especially when you are going to have to spend a large amount of it- unexpectedly?

Allison and I have found that the conversational practices we have developed for talking about money under normal circumstances serve us well during unexpected times too, such as:

  • When we are having breakfast, and can look at our budget and related spreadsheets.
  • When we are out for a nice walk around a lake or in a neighborhood we share and listen with care to each other’s thoughts about the possibilities and our hopes, fears, and dreams.
  • When after processing our emotions and budgets, we come up with a budget and a strategy, we revisit it every week or so to see if it’s realistic or not.
  • We talk to God about it. We pray, we listen, we hope, turn our fears over, and then trust.

Allison and I on a quick summer trip last year to see a couple friends of ours be ordained as pastors.

Allison and I will be fine. But this recent life change and experience has reminded me that these money conversations aren’t always easy. Thankfully we have found ways that work for us for talking about our faith and finances together.

What ways have you found in your own life? What questions do you have in talking about money and your faith in your own life?

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.

How do you talk about faith and finances?

compassHow do you talk about faith and finances? No really, how do you?

In August, Marcia Shetler’s blog post suggested providing a conversation table to share about faith and finances. We can gather ‘round with our families, loved ones, friends, colleagues, fellow faith community members, etc. But, what are we going to talk about? In September, the COMPASS blog will dig deeper into the topic of conversations about money.

3 Millennials who like to talk about faith and finances

A group of Millennials who like to talk about faith and finances.

Our guest bloggers include ministers and foundation staff, who will share guidance and best practices. Conversation ideas from resources profiled on the COMPASS website will be highlighted as well.

As COMPASS’ goal is to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances, here are some suggestions—from a Millennial—about how you might frame those conversations:

 

  • Approach others with genuine curiosity and appreciation– whether someone younger than you, from a different generation; someone older than you; or even someone in your own generation.
  • Ask open-ended questions, as these generally lead to more engaging and life-giving conversations.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about money. It’s a reality for everyone, and Millennials in particular understand this as their generation has had to come to grips with the challenges related to student loan debt.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what someone believes. Sometimes this may not be the easiest thing to start with, but as the conversation goes, or as future conversations emerge, this may naturally develop. It may also be helpful to imagine or ponder what you see in the person you are talking with, particularly in the way of their gifts, choices, and/or passions. How might these be a reflection of God’s work, call, or mission, or one’s vocation as part of that?
  • Avoid using language- in words, or body language- that might suggest judgment. If you are open, honest, authentic, and inviting, chances are the person you are talking with will be too.

So, how do you talk about faith and finances? As we unpack this question this month, we would also love to hear from you and share your thoughts and perspectives. If you would like to ponder this question and share a reflection, please let me know via a comment here or on Facebook.

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.