Being in deep debt feels like drowning. Not being in debt feels like breathing. And we don’t talk about these things because of the shame around debt and – in some cases – the shame around not being in debt when your friends are.
One of the reasons why the financial advisor Bernadette Joy is so effective in leading people out of debt is because she openly shares her own story about being $300,000 in debt and how she paid it off in three years. You can read about it here. She carried enormous shame about her debt but by sharing her story (and of course the happier ending) she gives others permission to share their own stories shame-free. Sort of a “we’re all in this together” mentality. It’s very supportive and I speak from personal experience.
There is nothing holy about poverty. And living in poverty and/or deep debt does a number on our ability to carry out our calling in life whether we are pastors, teachers, police officers, or McDonald’s workers. Pastors should be earning enough to live without worrying that the electricity will be turned off. And sometimes we Pastors are being paid enough (not a lot, but enough) but the debt we’ve brought with us makes it impossible to support ourselves.
Debt relief is a spiritual practice.
And yet, very few of our congregations offer debt relief classes or financial training. Many of us didn’t get this from our parents and if we find ourselves having made poor decisions about money, we are too ashamed to talk about it – especially in church.
Think about what it means to be too ashamed to talk about something with anybody in our church community. This is one reason why our congregations are failing.
Instead of being a community of sinners grappling with our own mistakes, embarrassments, shame, and brokenness, we have become a community of people who seem to have it all together. We don’t dare share during “the prayer concerns” that we have tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars in debt. And so it doesn’t get addressed and it impacts our souls.
Imagine being the kind of church that allows for people to share their deepest shame without fear of hearing about it in the parking lot next Sunday. Imagine congregations walking with people through their financial fears so that everyone can find freedom to build financial security. Financially secure followers of Jesus are able to financially encourage others and create vital ministries that addresses the world’s brokenness.
Here’s a start: get a small group of trusted people in your church to take a finance or debt reduction class together. And maybe just one class can help make a very uncomfortable topic a little more comfortable. Ideas for classes here and here (Skill Pop virtual classes are about $20 and Bernadette Joy sometimes teaches Crush Your Debt courses.)
I wrote this piece because I want every adult to conquer debt – in Jesus’ name. We can do a lot of good with the money currently going to credit card companies.