If you’ve been to a church in the last 10 years, you’ve probably noticed that churches have begun offering financial workshops. These workshops are relatively new phenomenon, but the church has been offering financial advice since the Bible was written. It just so happens that now, financial wellness companies have created specific programming to teach these Biblical concepts to Christians. I’m sure you are wondering if I have an opinion on this, and the answer is of course I have an opinion on this. I got going on this topic on The Pete the Planner® Radio Show on 93 WIBC this week. Listen to my thoughts below.
Before we get into this topic, a few disclaimers:
1) My company does not create or sell financial wellness programming to churches.
2) I am a Christian, although I don’t think it matters for this conversation.
3) I am not referring to or referencing a specific curriculum or company in this post.
With that out of the way, my question is simple, why do churches have financial programming?
The number one reason churches provide financial planning workshops to their congregants is the church leadership may sense there are financial problems within the congregation. And they’re probably right. You could take any cross section of America, put them into a room, and find a smattering of financial issues on hand. In other words, the likelihood of people in the church having financial issues is high. The church is meant to care for its people, and financial struggles are certainly a problem that people turn to the church for help with. I would even go so far as to say financial wellness and the church are a natural fit. The Bible talks about money and managing finances often, so it is natural that it would come up in a service.
All of this is fine, but I do have one issue with all of this. Fixing up and maintaining your financial life is the goal, but the motivation behind those actions is just as important. When financial programming is presented through the church the motivation becomes about spirituality and maybe even a little guilt. My thought is that you should want to fix up your financial life because you want to fix up your financial life. I want you to make a good decision because it is a good decision, not because someone is pressuring you to do it. Sure pressure works at first, but long-term results are only maintained by a motivation that comes from yourself.
I also did a little research into these church-based financial wellness programs and I came across a study that was used in marketing for one of these programs. Again, I’m not picking on any one program, this was used in their marketing so it’s something they approve of being shared about their company. Anyway, the study showed that after going through this program participants decreased debt by 38% and increased savings/investments by 58%. Excellent. But then the study went on to say that tithing increased by 72%. Tithing is a great practice. And I think it is realistic within any budget. But I see a problem. If debt is decreased by 38% but tithing is increasing by 72% who is really benefiting from these workshops more? The church? The congregation? I don’t know the answer. I’m simply pointing out the fact that increased tithing is one of the primary hooks used to market these products to churches. What is the true motivation?
Have a thought? Comment, email me, send me a tweet. I want to hear what you have to say.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.