In this week’s ChurchPulse Weekly episode, Rachel Cruze (national best-selling author and financial expert at Ramsey Solutions) sits down with Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman to discuss generosity and financial flourishing. Together, they talk about mistakes every generation makes around debt, why pastors need to be preaching about finances and the real reasons people have reduced their giving during the pandemic.
On Preaching about Finances
Money is on the minds of many individuals and families within local congregations, which is why pastors cannot ignore this topic. A recent Barna study found that 14 percent of adults—as well as 18 percent of practicing Christians—express that they have experienced substantial disruption to their income due to COVID-19. Additionally, 15 percent of adults today—and 15 percent of practicing Christians—report extreme levels of stress related to their personal finances.
During the interview, Cruze emphasizes how important it is for pastors to speak to this pain, even when it feels uncomfortable to talk about money. She says, “Acknowledging [the financial impact of the pandemic] is huge because it is a stress point, whether it’s right or wrong, how we got there, how we didn’t. When you can’t pay your bills, you’re losing sleep at night.”
She adds, “A lot of people don’t want to talk about it from the stage or on a Sunday morning, but that is a way to love your church well and speak into the truth of what God says about money.”
Cruze points to the multitude of financial principles found throughout the Bible, noting, “There’s more scriptures around money than heaven and hell combined when you see it […] Jesus talks about it, and he knows this is going to be something that we’re going to struggle with.”
She encourages leaders, “Dive into those topics and help people see that it is an issue and stress point, but there are practical things that [they] can do to get [themselves] in a position where money doesn’t rule [them].”
On Reduced Giving
One of the ways many Americans have coped with financial uncertainty during the pandemic has been to give less to the church. In a Barna study conducted among practicing Christians last year, one in four Millennials (25%) and one in five Gen X (20%) said they reduced the amount of money they were giving to their church during the early days of the pandemic.
“I really believe giving is not a math issue; it’s a heart issue,” Cruze shares. “The lie that the enemy pokes at you is, ‘If I just had more money, I would give. […] It has to become a habit no matter where you are financially. As big of a proponent as I am of paying off debt, getting an emergency fund in place and setting yourself up well, giving is still the number one line item in your budget.”
Her advice to individuals hesitant to give based on tight finances is, “Even if it’s not a lot, be giving something, because that starts to shape you to become more and more Christ-like. […] There’s a lot of grace in this, but my plea to people would be: do not stop giving—even if you have to lower the amount for a little bit. Continue to give, because it’s a posture of your heart and spirit.”
On Debt Across Generations
One of the other hindrances to financial flourishing that Cruze discusses is living in debt. Cruze shares that consumer debt levels (particularly student loans, car loans and credit card debt) are fairly consistent across all generations she works with. She notes, “We’re not learning from our mistakes. It’s kind of like this repetitive lifestyle.”
Cruze touches on the emotional impact debt has in people’s lives, noting “We’re seeing the stress level has risen majorly and people are freezing […] That scarcity mindset plays in, and again, [people are] grabbing, holding that money, not saving nor giving and just wanting to hold onto some cash.”
As she looks to help people make wise stewardship decisions, she anchors much of her work in a larger vision, saying, “What could the people of God do for the kingdom of God if they were debt free? If everyone gave their car payment every month to the church instead of to the bank, what things would change?”
About the Research
Barna Cities: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.
State of the Church: This data is based on a representative sample of 562 U.S. practicing Christian adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 28 to May 11, 2020. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021