How can we be more effective at helping people in their stewardship? By taking a coaching approach to conversations—even if it’s not within a formal coaching relationship—we can help disciple people in this area.
Strategy #1: Identification of principles and values
We live in an immediate gratification society. As such, money is often spent in whims instead of managed intentionally. As coaches, we can foster stewardship by helping people reflect on their values and the principles they base their spending on.
How do you get into these kinds of conversations—ones focused on exploring people’s principles and values? Curious questions are the best way in. Whether the context is a discipleship relationship, a coaching relationship, or just an informal friendship, people often enjoy being asked these kinds of questions and formulating their ideas into words.
Questions to discover principles and values
- What is important to you?
- How do your finances reflect your values?
- What financial principles did you learn from observing your parents?
- How do you make your decisions about money? What are your guiding principles?
- What would you like to do differently?
- How does saving fit into your views on money?
- How does giving fit into your views on money?
The root of many of these conversations—when you dig a little deeper—is most often found in people’s principles and values. Much of coaching is helping people align their principles and values with their behaviors. Sometimes we need to help people think through their principles and their values, as they are often subconscious or assumed. We are all operating under principles, even if we haven’t examined them.
As John Wesley famously put it, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Those were his stated financial principles. St. Francis of Assisi stated his financial principles in this way: “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.” Here’s one of my own: “If you live below your means, you’ll always have enough money.” Use open-ended questions to help people identify and reflect on the principles that undergird their finances—their “philosophy of money,” so to speak.
Spending highlights values
When confronting money problems, in many cases, we can begin by helping people identify their values. What really matters to them? What issues are close to their heart? As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Then from that starting point, we can move toward any needed realignment of values with financial behaviors.
Discussing values often opens the conversation more widely. Stewardship is not just a matter of giving to the church. It can be a question of deciding of how to invest in your children’s education. Or, it can be a matter of saving for retirement or emergencies (saving is also part of stewardship). Perhaps it’s a matter of prioritizing time vs. child-care spending and income. If there is a value for, say, experience of foreign cultures, we then need to find a way to pay for that experience, whether it’s a plane ticket, some nights out at international restaurants in our city, or an investment of time in serving refugees.
Values inform how we handle our finances, whether we are aware of those values or not. Best to be aware of them so we can be intentional about how we handle our money.
Strategy #2: Practical barriers to overcoming money problems
Sometimes people have explored their beliefs, values, and principles about money, but they are simply having trouble putting those principles into practice. They need to know the “how” of managing money. In those cases, we can help teach people about ways to handle their finances so they can align their money with their values.
An important part of coaching or discipling people effectively is a matter of correctly identifying the barriers that they are dealing with. In my work with Dr. Charles Ridley, we’ve identified four common obstacles—each requiring a different solution. When faced with God’s call to loving obedience—in any area of life—people usually run into one of these four barriers:
|Cognitive||“I don’t know what to do.”||Example: “[W]e have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1–7).|
|Behavioral||“I don’t know how to do it.”||Example: “How can I [understand], unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:26–40).|
|Emotional||“I’m afraid to do it.”||Example: “I do not know him” (Luke 22:54–62).|
|Volitional||“I don’t want to do it.”||Example: “[H]e went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Matthew 19:16–22).|
Once you determine the nature of the specific barrier they are facing, you can then settle on the best strategy for helping them overcome it. Obviously, you’ll deal differently with a person who doesn’t know how to do something than you would with someone who is unwilling to do it. It’s always good to make sure you’re addressing the right problem.
Overcoming stewardship barriers
The first two barriers—cognitive and behavioral—fall under the practical type. Cognitive is the easiest to approach. Simply point people to the appropriate scriptures and talk with them about Jesus’ approach to giving, money, and generosity. Much more commonly though, people know what to do but not how to do it (behavioral). If that’s the case, what don’t they know? Ask them questions to determine their specific needs:
- What do you know about how to budget?
- In what ways do you track your expenses so you can budget?
- What’s working for you right now? What’s not working?
- What types of auto-giving or auto-saving have you considered setting up?
- Identify the concerns or questions you have about your money.
- How are you balancing short-term needs and planning for the future?
Sometimes financial management skills simply need to be taught: budgeting, tracking expenses, structuring how and when you spend, and being aware of where the money is going. Those practices then become the building blocks of experiencing the freedom to give, spend, or invest toward what people care about.
Strategy #3: Creating environments for money problems conversations
Once people have explored their principles and values around stewardship, and once they know the basic how-tos of managing their money, then they run into the deeper and more challenging issues such as fear and willingness. Jesus ran into the same issues in his own day. See Luke 12:16-26 about the man who built more barns to store up crops to ensure his own security. See Matthew 19:16-24 about the rich young ruler who was unwilling to part with his wealth.
Are you a safe space to talk about money problems?
What is needed in these kinds of situations? Safe environments for conversations—places where people can explore and process their motives, fears, concerns, and blockages. It’s rare to find places where people can speak freely about money problems. Finances are a taboo subject in many cultures, my own included. Yet being able to talk openly and honestly about money in healthy ways is often what is most needed. Helping people with stewardship is usually less about teaching and more about creating environments where they can effectively process.
What types of relationships or environments do we need in order to have these kinds of conversations? Often we preach that people should give, but don’t provide the support needed for doing so. We don’t create space or opportunities to let people face their fears and address how to overcome their fears.
10 stewardship conversation starters
Whether in small groups of 10 to 12 people, in smaller life transformation groups of 2-4, or in one-on-one discipling, mentoring, or coaching relationships, here are some questions you could consider using:
- What did you learn by observing your parents and their approach to money?
- What do you want to emulate about that and what do you want to change?
- How would you describe your own approach to money? What emotions or feelings surround that? (e.g., shame, fear, confidence, etc.)
- What fears do you have around money?
- How would you state your principles for handling and spending money?
- Make a list of your top five values. How does your investment of money reflect each of those values? Give specific examples for each.
- What criteria do you use to decide who you invest in with your giving, or how much to invest? (e.g., alignment with your values, how well they manage their resources, giving a little to many causes vs. a lot to one or two causes, selecting the most strategic areas to focus on.)
- If someone looked only at your spending—with no other data—what conclusions might they come to about your values?
- Likewise, if someone looked only at your calendar—with no other data—what conclusions might they come to about your values?
- To what degree are you willing to respond to whatever God wants you to do with your money? (see Luke 16:10-15 and Luke 18:18-30)
Imagine the potential of a group going through questions like these and facing their unique fears and obstacles, listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit together, and keeping one another accountable for the next steps they decide on. A great deal of power and impact can be born from such conversations.