by: John Nolan
Too many ministry leaders have a spiritually sound but often half-baked "let go and let God” approach to their finances that causes personal and ministerial financial hardship. Could it be that even if you dislike math or accounting, God wants you to take personal responsibility for the finances He has put in front of you? We don't get into ministry for the money - but what does it look like to have a healthy financial plan? God calls us to be good stewards with the finances we have. But where to start?
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)
Proverbs 21:5 hits the nail on the head. There are no shortcuts when it comes to stewarding your finances well. A diligent financial plan consists of three main ingredients: clear and achievable goals, monitoring your cash flow through budgeting, and a healthy relationship with money.
Clear and achievable goals are critical to your long-term success with your financial plan. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Setting small goals to give yourself consistent wins will encourage you on the path of financial freedom. Your first goal may be to save $1,000 as an emergency fund or pay off the first of three credit cards. Break these goals down into small milestones and celebrate when you’ve accomplished one.
A monthly budget is a powerful tool in monitoring your cash flow. It allows you to tell your money where to go. Sticking to a budget allows you to cut down on expenses and put that income toward savings and paying off debt. Looking at financial coaching services like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course, individuals who take control of their finances through following their budgeting and planning model save an average of almost $400 in their first month. That’s $400 towards being debt-free, towards your savings, or towards your retirement. There are many high-quality free budgeting software tools that you can use to track your monthly budget – I would give Intuit’s “Mint” budgeting tool a try, or even Dave Ramsey’s course.
The final and most important key to a financial plan is ensuring that you have a healthy relationship with money. Everyone has a relationship with money; the question is whether or not it’s a healthy one. Our money relationship is established as children, in the home environment where we grew up. Many people’s relationship with money can be summed up with a feeling that there is never enough, or that it’s a limited resource that needs to be scavenged. Others may spend frivolously to reduce stress or feel that money has always and will continue to be there to spend freely. You may have a fearful relationship with money, where you hate looking at your bank account. These are unhealthy relationships with money that lead to your money controlling you.
A healthy relationship with money is a Kingdom money mindset, where you understand that your money isn’t actually yours. It’s God’s. Where you steward God’s money well, keep track of it, be generous with some of it, and save the rest toward your children’s legacy and your retirement. One of the keys to unlocking this understanding is tithing. By giving back to God what belongs to Him, we turn our promise of Stewardship into Action. This is the only way that I have found to actively change your relationship with money into that of a Kingdom money mindset. The amount to tithe is beyond the scope of this article, and I’ll leave that to you to bring to God. If you aren’t tithing, then start now with something, even if it’s $50 a month.
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
By applying these principles that we discussed and living them, you will see a change in your finances. Make no mistake, you will have to put in the work. But in doing the work, you’re being faithful with what God has given you, which leads to Him blessing you with more. This may sound like a cliché to you, but it’s true. By being a good steward with God’s blessings, you will find that money comes in to your bank account, rather than out. You may even be pleasantly surprised by how much comes in. This is God responding to your stewardship. So, are you ready to start?
John Nolan is an accounting and finance specialist in the Bay Area, California. His passion is working with pastors and their staff to thrive financially and live out biblical principles of financial stewardship. In his free time, he enjoys hiking around the Bay Area.
1 Cruz, Rachel. “Money Mindset.” Ramseyplus, 2021, www.ramseyplus.com/learn/jump-start/money-mindset.