By Jerry Chiles
Ministers have many things in common: calling, desire for the kingdom of God to be realized on earth, a love for people, frustration with the same people we love, and/or the slow pace that churches change or the way they refuse to change just to mention a few.
There is at least one more thing we have in common. It is dealing with financial matters.
When I graduated from seminary, I didn’t think about financial matters. I assumed, if I was called by God, He would take care of me and the church would have my best interest in mind. While I still feel that this is part of the equation, I recognize my part of the equation is to be knowledgeable and prepared to enter financial discussions. When I began a family, I realized that I was not just responsible for myself but also for a wife and children.
As the Peer Learning Group that meets at Forest Hills in Raleigh, N.C., began planning its 2017 agenda entitled “developing the personal life of the minister,” we became aware that a grant was available to investigate financial health and practice. We had never approached this subject because we considered it a personal topic. The best incentive for delving into the topic was grant money.
Kristen Muse expressed, “It isn’t easy for ministers to talk about money, but it is important. Our peer learning group experience allowed a safe environment for us to hear about various financial issues and to ask questions from a person who understood the unique place that ordained ministers find themselves.”
Our PLG members’ ages range from the 30s to the 70s. How could anyone speak to the needs of such an age span? We enlisted the help of Scott Hudgins, chair of the Endowment Management Board of CBF North Carolina and Assistant Vice Provost for Graduate Education UNCG. At the time, we did not know that Scott had a ministry background which would influence his presentation.
This perspective was refreshing. It was not the typical financial adviser approach. Kristen noted, “The information we received about our present financial reality as well as thinking about the future was very beneficial. The opportunity to have these conversations in a peer learning group setting really allowed for the wide-spectrum of the ministry journey that the members of our group are on. We were able to think about how to prepare for retirement as well as how to be good stewards in our present ministry state.”
Scott helped us realize that we are not alone in our financial situations. Generally, ministers are not the most financially knowledgeable. An aha moment occurred, as we discussed financial stress factors. Compensation, taxes, retirement, and savings were other topics we discussed.
Scott left us with these practical suggestions:
- Compensation includes both salary and benefits. More attention to benefits may increase compensation quicker than raising salary.
- Maximize pre-tax benefits (FSA, Insurance, Retirement, 529 plans).
- Utilize direct deposit, electronic transfers, and online bill paying.
- Adopt a savings plan that works (Save Tomorrow, electronic transfers to separate savings accounts, etc.).
- Learn about how payroll functions.
- Ask questions, seek advice, and share your concerns with confidants.
Jerry Chiles is a minister, coach and consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina.