I remember when I was in elementary school, I tagged along with my dad on a trip to Florida. He took multiple vans full of high school students for spring break. This was not your typical high school spring break in Florida, it was a missions trip, called “Project Serve.” If you are planning on a weeklong service project somewhere, read Kyle Wood’s blog post here.
I remember two things from that week.
1. A trip to Disney World was planned at the end of the week.
2. I got to go to Disney World at the end of the week.
While at Disney, after riding our last ride for the day, my dad and I were walking out amongst the mob of people. It was then that I found $20 on the ground. Now, this isn’t my attempt to make this story appear more interesting.
Dreams do come true at Disney. Free money! Unearned $20 in my possession. Once it was clear that the original owner of said $20 was unable to be determined, my dad told me I could do whatever I wanted with it. It was mine.
So, what did I do with it? Save it? Spend it on something that had lasting value or something I truly wanted? Give it away to someone who was in need? Give it to my dad since he paid for everything for me?
Nope, instead I purchased a red and purple suede Mickey hat. I blew the entire $20 within 15 minutes of finding it, on something I hadn’t wanted before I had that $20. And to this day, my dad occasionally wears that hat because I no longer will. He probably wears it to remind me of my immature financial decision.
How many can relate? We find ourselves spending money on the things that we don’t really need the moment we have the money? How often do we make unwise choices with our money? How often do we see the students we lead, make those unwise choices?
Money is a Tool
How we communicate money’s role in our lives is important when leading students. Is this a topic that we default to “big church” to discuss OR do we see a need to communicate these things that can assist a student longterm. They will eventually leave our youth groups, get a job or head off to college, apply for a credit card, get a free t-shirt, and get integrated into society as an adult. Yes, even your 6th grade student who you think will never grow up, will become an adult someday. Even if the students we lead are in middle school, is this something we are willing to bring up in discussions?
Money is a messy subject and can be difficult to discuss because people have varying beliefs with it, growing up with or without it. It can be perceived as greedy. And technically, students may still be relying on their parent’s outpour of money into their pockets. So it may seem like this doesn’t apply to them. But, our belief is reflected in how we live and behave. We can’t avoid money, it’s a necessity. But our view of money determines how we leverage it. And this is the age that money habits are developed.
We asked students this summer what they believed about money and the answers were across the board:
More money = more problems
More money = less problems
Money is evil
Money is good
Money is neutral, neither bad or good
It just shows that students have varying beliefs about money. From the results, over 50% of students see money as neutral, neither bad or good. It is a tool. But that doesn’t necessarily reveal their spending habits. How are we doing in assisting them in understanding money developing healthy money habits?
So here are 4 topics I believe students need to hear from us as leaders when we discuss money.
1. God is First
As a former youth pastor, I have been apart of numerous discussions on the topic of tithing within the Church as well as discussing this topic with students. God instructs us to give a tithe to Him. Ten percent of what we get. To give Him the first of our fruits(paycheck); the first 10%. But, the sad reality is that, Christians only give about 2.5% per capita.
The larger point is ‘what would happen if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent?’ This is what can happen with the added money from tithers:
- $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
- $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
- $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
- $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
- $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.
Those are some baffling numbers. Unbelievable. C’mon Church!
If we believe everything is from God, he is essentially gifting 90% of that to us, where 10% allows us to say thank you by giving it back to Him so He can use it elsewhere.
Are we teaching students to trust God with their finances no matter the size of their paycheck or allowance? Are we teaching students that God should come first because the results of what could be done when we give to Him can literally change the world?
2. Generosity is about The Heart
Jesus said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The way we spend the money that we have and the things we own show to the world what we value most in life, where our treasure is. It reveals our priorities. We cannot serve two masters with our whole hearts. And Jesus makes it pretty clear how much we should love the Lord our God… Say it with me, “…with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” So we can’t even serve two masters with only portions of our heart. When we love God with ALL OUR HEART, generosity is a bi-product.
When the Church discusses money or comes to the time to receive tithes and offerings each week, it can be interpreted as “all they want is my money” for those who see money as their own and not God’s. The church is asking its congregation to be obedient as well as generous. To love God with our entire being. When we serve money as our master, we hold onto it much closer to ourselves instead of seeing it as a way of bringing life to others through Jesus’ bride. We miss opportunities to let the kingdom come to others on earth as it is in Heaven.
Generosity is about the outpour of love of God, the evidence of His role in our lives. Are we guiding students to love God whole-heartedly?
3. Debt is Slavery
To quote a scriptural proverb, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
The day my wife and I paid off our combined school loans and got completely out of debt (this was before “owning” a home), we experienced such freedom with our finances and in life. This was back in December of 2008. We have been determined to live in freedom of debt ever since. We still live debt-free except our mortgage. But to be honest, we are still slaves to the bank, even if it’s manageable payments.
When God called Katie and I to Never The Same over 2 years ago, we weren’t sinking in debt to make that move impossible. Instead we had the freedom to go where God was leading us without worrying about bills or being overwhelmed by debt. I believe debt restricts people from truly following God wherever He leads.
I wonder how many people feel God calling or leading them to do something, but they are so enslaved by debt, they are physically held back because of the looming burden of having to pay the monthly bill on the debt. When the choice comes to pursue what God wants or pursue a vocation that is comfortable, how many go after the comfortable rather than God because it pays well? Yes, God has given us freedom in Christ, but we can be so enslaved that giving a tithe is not even an option, let alone the freedom to be generous.
God is against slavery. He is all for freedom.
4. Earnings is A Limit
To stay out of debt means living within your means. Spending less than what you earn. What you earn should be the limit to what you spend. This is called discipline and self-control. But, we live in a culture that doesn’t get that concept and instead promotes “buy first, pay later” whether you have it or not. Debt is limitless. Debt is used to project a false perception. Wealth is now defined by what other people see. How much someone can afford debt to project an image of wealth. If it appears that you have wealth, then people should “believe” it right? This is called pride. All too often, people try to impress others with their credit limit, but what it reveals is a prideful nature and a lack of discipline and self-control. Too often we allow envy and pride to determine what we do with our money and that is built up around us with the credit we use. This is what Paul is referring to when he says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
I am going to suggest using the ‘b’ word. Discuss budgeting with students. It may seem irrelevant to them, but it is a solid way to ensure we are staying within our means. Breaking down on paper where the dollars go when they come in. It’s about being a good steward with what God has given us and living with a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.
It is about the impact and change that can be created and I don’t believe that can effectively happen if we are unable to manage the money God has entrusted with.
Are we leading students to understand these concepts about money when they want to bring change to this world? Are we leading them toward healthy habits in regards to money?
For more resources to discuss this topic of money with students, use this guide.
Director of Production Design
Never The Same
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