Planning for Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is not something that just happens. It requires a plan.  Carl Richards is the author of The One-Page Financial Plan, A Simple Way to Be Smart about Your Money. I will tell you that the ultimate plan has more than one page, but getting started really is one page.

 

Richards says that the biggest obstacle in financial planning is getting started. People are just overwhelmed with all of the choices, so they default to doing nothing. Some of the hesitancy is that people are afraid to face the truth about their finances. It is the old, “out of sight – out of mind” mentality. But financial freedom needs a beginning.

 

Richards suggests a one page starting point with the question of why? Why is money important? What is having money going to achieve in one’s life? Richards and his wife wrote down, “Time with family doing things we love.” The rest of plan was about decisions that relate to the “why.”

 

Today is a good day to begin a financial plan. Start with why. Then write down two to four major financial steps that will begin to move you there.


Expressing Love

Today, we will see lots of red hearts and ash crosses on foreheads. Valentine’s Day is a great day for florists, restaurants, jewelers and candy makers. Today is also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. On this day we are invited to give freely of cards, candy, jewels, etc. in order to express our love to another. We also begin to engage in spiritual disciplines as an expression of love for Jesus.

I remember many years ago that our children were in a school system that allowed florists to deliver items to students in classrooms on Valentine’s Day. You should have seen how many balloons and stuffed animals filled cars and buses at the end of the day. I guess we were bad parents, because we did not send balloons or stuffed animals to our children at school.  What we did notice over the next two or three years that it became a contest to see which children would get the most balloons and stuffed animals. Thankfully, the school ended the practice because it just disrupted the whole day. It is so easy to equate stuff with love.

This is a day that many will renounce eating chocolates and eating out as a spiritual discipline. What a confusing day of emotions for us all.  We give out of love and deny out of love. We acquire more and let go of more. What a perfect way to begin discerning the place of money and stuff in our life of faith.


Generosity and New Generations

An article by Kate Taylor appeared a couple of months ago concerning the struggle of some restaurant chains struggling to reach younger dinners. The ones struggling the most are Ruby Tuesday, Applebee’s and Chili’s. Chili’s made the decision to cut 40% of their current menu items. The word is that most of these brands are dated and fail to reach younger generations.

The CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings is stepping down. Applebee’s is closing about 135 locations. The problem is that younger folks are doing more cooking at home and ordering food that is delivered to their homes. They just do not fit the model of Boomers and Gen-Xers.

I thought this speaks to our churches related to generosity. We are still stuck in a generosity model in most churches that is designed for the Builder and Boomer generations. We have to realize that in order for the church’s message of generosity to reach new generations, we need to change. The same old stuff is just not going to keep working.

The sad truth is that while restaurants work to adapt; churches seem content to fuss about the younger folks who just need to learn how things work in the church.


Financial Freedom

The news media always plays up the huge pots of money available in some multi-state lotteries. Recent winners hit almost 500 million dollars. The number sounds great until you realize that in order for a person to win, lots of others have to loose. The money is not a gift, but a transfer of funds from a large group of people to an individual with a cut for states and the lottery companies. People are looking for a “Get out of Debt” card.

Pastors and laity of our churches are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This is not just about new folks, but we are also called to grow disciples into mature followers of Jesus. So many have been stunted spiritually because they have failed to learn the place of money and possessions in the life of a Christian. Pastors and leaders of our churches have failed to address the very real issue of debt and affluence.

We talk about prayer, worship attendance, serving others and maybe even witnessing. But we skirt around money and possessions. We fail to acknowledge the power of money and possessions in our lives. People need the voice of the church to speak against the power of debt and the consumer driven frenzy of our society.

A great, simple start is to find a tool to talk about money and possessions. I recommend Freed-up Financial Living by the Good Sense Movement. It is far from perfect, but it places money and possessions within a biblical context. It offers a way for followers of Jesus to address the weight of debt and affluence. You may not change the world, but you may just change a life.


Tell the Stories of Faith

Tell the Stories of Faith

 

Folks, we just need to get better at telling our stories. I know Jesus talked about not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, but we need to celebrate what we are doing as a faith community. People need to hear how their investment of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness is making a difference.  We need to tell our stories because others are telling stories of their accomplishments.

 

Various hospitals are telling about changing and saving lives. Colleges and universities communicate about their facilities and students. Even dog shelters are telling their stories. I love animals, but I believe that connecting people to Jesus is more important. Yet, we just seem to assume that people are going to give because they are supposed to give. That world is going away quickly.

 

Right now is the time to craft your stories as a bulletin insert, a video or a witness for worship. Look at what you are doing for children, youth or older adults. Find out about the work of the church in Mississippi and around the world. If you do not have any stories to tell, it may be time to fall in love with Jesus again as the church.

 


Scholarship Application Deadline

The Foundation is moving up its scholarship application deadline in order to assist students in making decisions about school choices. The applications are due April 2, 2018 and award letters will be sent the first week of May.

Applications may be found on our website under download forms. Or you may call or email the Foundation to request an application. Please note that non-seminary students may only apply for up to four awards. Seminary students may apply for an additional three awards.

Students must be active in United Methodist Church in the Mississippi Annual Conference. This is certified by the pastor’s signature on the application form.

We are once again partnering with the Wood College Foundation in awarding twenty-five $1,000 scholarships for undergraduate students. Other Foundation scholarships range from $200 to $700 per year. Seminary scholarships may be higher.


Cleaning Out for the New Year

Things You Need to Get Rid of in 2018

 

Alexia Dellner in Pure Wow recently listed 30 things we need to dump as we begin 2018. I have reduced her list for our use.

 

  1. Clean out and donate old clothes that have not been worn in years.
  2. Dump old pens that no longer work.
  3. Recycle all your old chargers and cords for devices you no longer use.
  4. Jettison all of the questionable leftovers in the freezer and fridge.
  5. Put old greeting cards in the recycle bin, unless they have glitter. No one wants it.
  6. The collection of plastic bags needs to go.
  7. Move threadbare towels to the rag bin.
  8. Drop off old eyeglasses in one of those Lion’s Club boxes for re-use in the world.
  9. Purge that junk drawer of old batteries, etc.
  10. Cut the hidden clutter under beds and in closet corners.

 

This works for our homes, but many of these suggestions are good for our church offices and closets. A fresher environment encourages our desire for a new beginning in the New Year.


A New Year

A New Year with the New Tax Law

 

It is true that many givers will no longer be able to itemize their charitable contributions to our churches, but I believe that people will continue to give. According to research by Crescendo, charitable estate gifts have continued even as the estate tax exemptions have risen. The reason is that people’s primary motivation for giving is to leave a legacy and support what they love.

 

The ministry of the church has not changed. The desire to bring new people into a relationship with Jesus Christ has not changed. Care for those in need in our communities and around the world has not changed. We are still called to be a light to all the world.

 

There are still some tax-wise ways to give. Those confronted with mandatory IRA distributions can still roll them over directly to the church and exclude them from income. Gifts of appreciated securities may still be given to the church, while avoiding capital gains taxes. In each case, the donor should consult an accountant or financial advisor in making these decisions.

 

We are called to celebrate new beginnings in this season of Christ’s light. Tell the stories of light, and people will respond in generosity.


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from your Foundation staff!


Company Is Coming

Company Is Coming

 

This time of year many are expecting company. This means cleaning the house, getting the beds and bath ready for guests, and doing some kind of extra touch that says, “We are glad you are.” Company is probably coming to many of our churches for special Advent and Christmas services. What are you doing in your churches to prepare for guests?

 

Is the space clean, especially the restrooms? Is the entrance door obvious, or do you need someone outside to direct guests to the entrance? Will you guide guests to their seats, or will you hope that they do not sit in Aunt Sara’s special seat and get asked to move? Will the order of worship in the bulletin make sense to someone unfamiliar with the church? Pastors, be sure to introduce yourself at the beginning of the service. Guest may not know who you are.

 

If an offering is received, be sure to explain its purpose and allow guests to feel free to give or not to give. Christmas Eve Communion services are wonderful experiences, but be sure to explain what it is and how it is served. Do not assume that everyone knows what to do.

 

Finally, make sure that your company is invited back. And please do not say anything about Christmas and Easter visitors.