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Randy Robinson serves as the Treasurer of Southern Union Conference
Randy and his wife, Denise, have two sons.                                       

 
 Financial Makeover(pdf)
  Reprinted from Best Practices for Adventist Ministry, June 19, 2013
 
For many, including members in your churches, pastoral colleagues, and other church leaders, family finances can be a source of difficulty, pain, and strife. I believe God knew finances would be a challenge for us, so He included scores of biblical references on how we should manage our financial resources. 
 
Short of an unexpected windfall, there really is no silver bullet to heal our finances. But sharing these principles with your members or applying them to your own situation can help create a major transformation!
 
Let’s start by identifying some areas that are harmful to the health of our finances and need to be avoided.
 
Impulse Purchasing 
As I see it, the definition of advertising is someone trying to persuade you to purchase something you don’t need. Grocery stores are organized on this principle.  Have you ever seen a store where milk and eggs are close to the front door? The answer is no. Why? They put the necessary stuff in the back so you have to pass all the ‘unnecessary’ things on the way in the hope that you will buy more than just milk and eggs.  
 
Impulse purchasing is a killer of financial health.  Proverbs 21:5 counsels, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” One way to combat impulse purchasing is make a list and stick to it when you buy. This is true for grocery stores, Christmas gifts, and shopping for clothing.  Just as you follow your sermon outline on Sabbath morning so you don't wander, you follow a purchasing 'outline' for the same reason.
 
There are also situations where high pressure is applied to persuade us to buy. Examples might be car, time share, or ‘party’ oriented sales pitches. In those situations, use the principle, 'if they are bold enough to ask me to buy, I am bold enough to say no’. Don’t worry, they will get over it! If you anticipate a pressure situation, research ahead what the item should cost and set your maximum limit, then stick with it regardless of the pressure. Walk away if you are not comfortable.
 
Keeping Up With The Joneses 
They are likely members of your church--nice house, expensive cars in the driveway, and designer clothing.  They are the envy of the congregation. What most don’t see however, is often they are one unexpected event from a total financial meltdown. They have no savings, the credit cards are maxed out, and they are a payment behind on the mortgage. As their pastor, you may notice their lack of giving to the church. This may be a family afflicted with 'keeping up with the Joneses disease'. The problem is they don’t have the resources to support the lifestyle they want everyone to think they have! They embrace the notion that things define them. Proverbs 13:7 reminds us, “One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” 
 
Several years ago a Kent State University study supported this Proverb when it determined that millionaires tend not to look like we think they should. They drive ‘regular’ cars, have ‘regular’ houses, and generally don’t look like they are rich.
 
Succumbing to the notion that things define us also damages our spiritual well-being. The more we focus on our external appearance, the less our hearts are able to discern Gods voice calling us to live according to His standard. Reprioritizing how we relate to 'stuff' can not only benefit our wallet, but reduce the noise preventing us from hearing and responding to what God wants for us.
 
Ignorance of Where the Money Goes
One of the most common enemies of healthy finances is not knowing where the money goes. If you don’t know where the ‘money leak’ is, you can’t fix it!  Here is what I have recommended to many I have counseled over the years. Make a comprehensive list of what you spend… every single penny you spend, for two or three months. Make sure you include quarterly, semi-annual, and annual payments such as insurance, taxes, Christmas, vacation, and other similar costs. Once your list is complete, you can easily identify any 'leaks'. Plug them by eliminating wasteful spending, then fortifying your finances by committing more to God's cause, reallocating funds to paying off debt, and saving more. If you know where every penny is going, you will know how to make changes!
 

Debt
If I had to pick the most deadly enemy of healthy finances, it is the inability to manage debt. Everywhere you look, advertisers are attempting to convince us, with great success I might add, to buy now and pay later. Not surprisingly, the Bible has something to say about debt. Proverbs 22:7 cautions, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Debt puts us in financial chains! It kills personal financial flexibility and the mission in our churches. How much more could our churches do in the communities they serve without debt? How much better off would our families be if their debt were eliminated? 
 
If you see a debt problem, follow the 4 “P’s” to eliminate it:
  • Put away the credit cards. Destroy them, and determine to purchase only what you can afford to pay with cash.  
  • Prioritize your debt. List your debt balances from most to least.
  • Pick the smallest one.  Once you know what all your outstanding balances are, identify which is the smallest.
  • Pay it off.  Pay the smallest loan off first, paying only the minimum balance on all of the others.  Once you pay the smallest one off, move to the next smallest and use what you were paying on the smallest one to pay the next one off and so on.
If your church is burdened with debt, use the same principle. It takes patience and time, but if you persist, you will win the battle over debt!
 
Now, let us talk about some friends of family finances.  Not only are there things to avoid, but there are some things you can embrace to help keep your finances in good health.
 
Return Tithe
In Malachi 3:10, God invites us to test Him. Wow, what an opportunity!  He says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”  This is our Creator saying to me, give Me a tenth of your income, and watch what I will do with the other nine tenths! Maybe we have trouble believing that God will really provide for us when the check only stretches to the 23rd of the month even before tithes and offerings are returned.  But watch out, when you trust Him with that one tenth, He guarantees a blessing. And not only does He guarantee a blessing, He guarantees so much blessing you won’t have room for it all! Go ahead, put God to the test. If He asks us to test Him, let’s be bold enough to do it, and then stand back and prepare to receive mind blowing blessings!
 
Saving
The key to this finance friendly process is ‘steady as she goes’. You don’t have to blow the doors off the bank all at once with a giant deposit.  Start small, embrace gradual, and set easily reachable goals to begin with.  For instance, set a goal to save $1,000. Use payroll deduction because what you don’t get in your check, you tend not to miss. Begin with just $10 per pay check if you have to. Do more if you can. If you get a raise, don’t increase your lifestyle, increase your savings amount! Setting small goals over time will amount to large dollars in time!  The Bible reminds us in Proverbs 13:11, “. . . he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Be patient and persistent, and watch what happens!
 
Budgeting 
God is a God of order. He counsels us to 'count the costs' when building a building, but the principle extends to our daily lives. The first step in budgeting is doing the spending assessment described earlier. Once you know where your money is going, you can identify essential spending categories such as tithe and offerings, mortgage/rent, food, utilities, etc., then the non-essentials, such as cable TV, fun money, entertainment, etc..  In your planning, don’t forget the quarterly, semi-annual and annual bills you have. Once you have identified all your spending needs, make ‘expense buckets’ for each bill you identified. When you receive your pay check, allocate it to each bucket as necessary. Then, when you spend money for the month, you deduct from the appropriate bucket. When a bucket is empty, you don’t spend any more from that bucket.  Give yourself a few months to make adjustments, but stick to the plan. Remember, don’t ‘steal' from buckets that accumulate for quarterly or annual bills. You will need that money when the time comes.  
 
If you want help with tracking your spending, there are many apps for smart phones or tablet devices such as Easy Envelope or HomeBudget. Quicken and Money are also helpful tools for tracking finances on your computer or smart devices.
 
God delights in our living an abundant life. John 10:10 clearly says that God does not want us to just get by, or just exist from one day to the next. He wants us to live an abundant, happy, healthy life. Pray for His guidance and by His grace, using these biblical principles, we can live the abundant life He wants for us.
 
 
** All biblical quotations are taken from the New International version of the Bible.