DALLAS (BP) — Developing a stewardship plan to get out of debt will strengthen marriages and create stronger disciples, according to a group of pastors and speakers who participated on the President’s Panel on Stewardship June 13 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.
Led by immediate past SBC President Steve Gaines, the panel consisted of personal finance speaker and author Dave Ramsey; his daughter Rachel Cruze, also an author and speaker; Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Nick Floyd, lead teaching pastor of Cross Church’s campus in Fayetteville, Ark.; and Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church.
Gaines encouraged churches to offer Financial Peace University (FPU), a personal finance class available from Ramsey Solutions. FPU is available at a discount for Southern Baptist churches through a partnership between Ramsey Solutions and the SBC Executive Committee.
Leading FPU at a church “is really not about money,” Ramsey noted. “It’s about lordship,” marriage and evangelism, he said. “There is opportunity to lead people to the Lord by reaching them in a felt need.”
Cruze, who works with the Financial Peace University, said being in debt is the number one cause of divorce. Research indicates that this generation is the most indebted in history, she added.
The average couple has $15,000 in credit card debt, $592 for monthly automobile payments and $36,000 in student debt. Being in debt causes seemingly small issues to escalate, Cruze said, for both single parents and married couples.
Talking about money “forces” couples “to think long term” about their dreams and goals. “When couples can sit together and talk about the future and dream, suddenly there’s this new spark in a marriage,” she said.
The group urged pastors to make stewardship a critical aspect of teaching from the pulpit and interpersonally.
Grant Gaines, son of the immediate past SBC president, said it was important for pastors to preach about financial stewardship in sermons. They should highlight Scriptures on stewardship when preaching and encourage members to see that good stewardship reflects God’s image and discipleship, he said.
While talk of money may be a controversial subject at some churches, or may reflect abuses from the prosperity gospel, Floyd said he believes it is a “neglected call to discipleship.” Every small group at his church will study Financial Peace, he said.
Floyd, son of former SBC president Ronnie Floyd, noted that when the church staff was taken through the Financial Peace seminar, within nine weeks, the group reduced their debt by $90,000 and increased their savings by $46,000.
Ramsey said debt forces one to remain in a “toxic situation.” When one is no longer a slave to debt, he said, they don’t have to serve two masters. He also noted that those without debt can be more generous to others.
The panelists also urged parents to begin educating children about stewardship at an early age.