By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
When we talk to people in our churches about money, we usually end up on topics such as budgeting, managing your resources and generous giving.
What would happen if we were to engage in conversations about money as a relationship?
The Bible describes how our relationship with money impacts the state of our heart. The writers of Scripture often use relational terms when talking about our connection to money. Jesus said we would love a master like money, or hate it.
My friend Brad Hewitt has written a book, Your New Money Mindset: Creating a Healthy Relationship with Money, and leads a nonprofit organization, Thrivent, to help Christians nurture this vital relationship. He says there are some crucial things we can do as spiritual leaders to help people have a healthier relationship with their money that ultimately shapes their hearts.
Start with a Heart Focus
Brad says that if our connection with money is a relationship, then we should be talking about principles in Scripture about money affecting the state of our hearts. “If we don’t start with the heart, we really have a hard time changing beliefs and eventually practices,” Brad adds.
The key here, according to Brad, is reversing the field on how we view our relationship with money. In a relationship, we want intimacy and a deep emotional connection. However, a healthy relationship with money comes from the opposite.
“You want to view money as a tool with no emotional connection to you,” Brad says. “It doesn’t signify success. It isn’t going to bring you contentment or peace. Lack of intimacy with money makes it a healthy relationship.”
Talk About Money in a Positive Way
How can we change the conversation about money as a relationship? It’s actually easier to address the money relationship than to talk about bank accounts or salaries.
“If you ask someone to tell you a story about the first positive or negative feeling they had about money,” Brad says, “that’s fantastic for talking about money in a healthy way.”
It’s about shifting the conversation to something we are doing for people.
“There’s a Proverb that says, ‘The world of the generous gets bigger and bigger, and the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller’ “, Brad says (see Proverbs 11:24 in The Message). “If your job as a pastor is to help people’s worlds get bigger and bigger instead of smaller and smaller, how could you help but talk about it?”
Help People Live Differently
On the pragmatic side, Brad says his research has proven one thing to be most impactful for inspiring generous givers: Helping people live below their means versus a lifestyle with negative financial margins.
“Many people don’t have the opportunity to be generous because they’ve made other choices and don’t have the capacity,” Brad says.
This can be a challenging needle to move, even if your people hear the message to live below their means.
“The other 6 days and 23 hours you’re being told, ‘More is better! If you just had this, you would be happy. Success is all about money,’ ” Brad says. “It takes difficult choices about lifestyle to have a different emotional relationship with money.”
Ask the Hard Question
Brad says there are two key stewardship questions that begin to change people’s relationship with money. The first is, how much is enough? That relates to our previous point about lifestyle, and is different for every person.
The second question is a tough one that makes us all a bit uncomfortable: When I spend this money or buy this thing…Who am I serving?
“If the answer is always ‘yourself’ or ‘your family,’ you might want to go back to question one,” Brad says.
Some Helpful Resources
Thrivent offers resources that will help you shift the conversation to money as a healthy relationship.
Thrivent offers training materials and workshops on topics such as college student debt and retirement at their website newmoneymindset.com. Brad’s book Your New Money Mindset: Creating a Healthy Relationship with Money, will help start good conversations.
A free assessment at thrivent.com is a great resource for small groups, or for pastors to use with leadership teams. “Part of a healthy relationship with money is owning your own story, and knowing your own story,” Brad says. The assessment is an effective mirror into the money relationship.
“We want to help people be wise with money and live generously, which is actually one thing,” Brad says. “If we could get Christians to be wise with money and live generously, we would change the world.”
Andy Williams contributed to the writing of this article.
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.