Is Church the Place for Financial Education?


EE has been replaced by FPU. 

The church specialty classes that are most widely attended are now focused on money.

That’s interesting isn’t it?  It wasn’t too long ago that the money conversation was taboo in church circles.  People did not discuss personal finances outside of their homes.  But, over the last 30 years, all of that has changed.  The tide has turned and now more people than ever gather in church groups to discuss money.

Sure…there are still the holdouts who don’t want to divulge their personal debt levels and there are others who plead the fifth about their investments.  But, the money conversation is now on the table.

After hearing from over 15,000 church members on this subject (through the “How Generous Are We?” Assessment), we have learned that approximately 30% of church members have no interest in getting a financial education at the church.  They’re not convinced that the church is the place for financial conversations. 

However, that statistic also shows that around 70% of church members do look to their church community for financial education.  That’s a huge responsibility for the church!  And please understand, I am not talking about financial health here.  I’m talking about spiritual health.

So, what’s the role of the church in the money conversation?

In his article, “Why Churches Are a Hotbed for Financial Education,” Trent Hamm notes a few reasons for the popularity of financial programs at church.  He says that, obviously, this is a financial win for the church.  The more that people get out of debt, the more they can contribute to the church itself.  Second, he points out that people experience more success in this area of life when they approach it with a support group.  Finally, Hamm says that the financial ideas are more powerful when they are presented in a Biblical context.  Specifically, he points out that basic financial principles are easier to digest when they are “wrapped in a greater philosophical and spiritual tradition that the people had held for much of their lives.”

It seems like a win-win.  Right?

A quick word of caution here; teaching people to be more judicious consumers is not always the same as teaching them to follow the ways of Jesus.  We certainly want to be good stewards.  We want to properly manage all that God has entrusted to us.  But, God’s view of money doesn’t often fit into either Adam Smith’s or Karl Marx’s worldview.  We cannot blindly take the principles of the leading economists and wrap them in Scripture if we want to follow the ways of God.  We cannot assume that man’s logic is greater than or equal to God’s wisdom.  And we cannot assume that widely accepted financial practices will make us better imitators of God.

What’s the answer, then?  If we know that our people are hungry to learn about money in the church context…and if we know that the church exists to equip disciples…how do we marry the two?    

We certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers, but what if we started asking better questions for our church financial classes?  What if we started asking things like these:

1.       How does God utilize material possessions?  (What is God’s purpose for money?)

2.       Is it possible to imitate God and keep our current views of money?

3.       Why was Luke so captivated by this subject (See Luke 12-16 for starters)?

4.       What did the Macedonian churches get that the Corinthians missed (2 Corinthians 8-9)?

5.       How important is the parable of the sower to this conversation…and particularly the seed that was choked out by the thorns?

6.       If our group had a discussion on The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-15), what would we decide that Jesus was saying about money?

7.       In light of Jesus referring to money as Mammon (a god), can we still speak of money as amoral?

8.       Why does Jesus continually talk about this subject while only occasionally mentioning things like lust, gluttony and sloth?

9.       What does the life of a radical Jesus follower look like in this area?

Sometimes, the best place to start is with a new set of questions. 

Let’s not shove the money conversation outside of the church again.  As church members across the U.S. have noted…we need financial education in the church.  But, let’s also be wise in the way we teach it…not cultural wisdom wrapped in a cloak of Scripture, but Kingdom-minded wisdom immersed in a deeper theology of money.