Wespath and Abingdon Press have partnered to produce a new program called “Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being”. This six-part resource leads United Methodists in a comprehensive journey through earning, saving, spending and giving all taught from a Wesleyan perspective.
Dale Jones is the Managing Director of Church Relations for Wespath and part of the cross-agency team behind the Saving Grace program. “We saw a need for a solid financial management course for clergy that would fit well with United Methodist values and culture,” said Jones. “We looked at popular materials already out on the market, like the Good Sense Movement that had good basic materials, but didn’t feel very Wesleyan in their outlook.”
The Rev. John Wesley taught his Methodist societies to “First, gain all you can, and, secondly save all you can, then give all you can.” (Sermon 50 "The Use of Money"). This memorable phrase reminded Methodists to think holistically in how they made all their day-to-day financial decisions.
Jones’ team worked with Susan Salley, Associate Publisher for Abingdon Press, to research topics and recruit United Methodist leaders to serve as content advisors for the project. “Wesley taught that Christian life must be lived. One of the things that makes this program very distinct is a focus on your financial life and relationship with money as part of a discipleship path. The goal is not to build wealth, but to live faithfully,” said Salley.
Wespath and Abingdon Press consulted with local clergy, United Methodist foundation leaders and other financial planners in developing Saving Grace. The Rev. Anna Guillozet of Linworth United Methodist in Columbus, Ohio was part of a pilot group of clergy who took the program online to beta-test it. Afterwards Guillozet and her colleagues offered feedback to the developers to improve the resource. She also served as one of the hosts for the video sessions.
“Faithfulness is not simply what you do in relation to the church, but how you live your everyday life. This resource helps you incorporate financial understanding into the whole of your spirituality,” said Guillozet.
The program includes a participant workbook with six chapters on topics such as saving, eliminating debt, tracking income and adjusting spending. The workbook also includes worksheets to help readers set goals, create budgets and better understand their relationship to money. There is an additional workbook just for clergy and a leader kit. Amplify Media has also released three free videos on clergy finances.
Among the unique tools of Saving Grace is the money autobiography participants write up at the beginning of the program. “A lot of financial resources try to ask you about your understanding of money, but won’t help you uncover what brought you to that understanding. A money autobiography is a process where you share both your past experiences with money and the how you’ve managed it throughout your life,” said Guillozet.
Saving Grace is not a one-size fits all resource when it comes to finances. The program tries to address participants where they are in their careers, lifestyles and experiences with money. Financial well-being might look a little different for instance for the individual who works 9 to 5 every day in an office with benefits and a pension versus someone working within the gig economy. The workbook includes tips for creating a spending plan with a variable income. “We don’t make the kinds of assumptions about our participants other resources might,” said Jones.
Saving Grace also talks about debt realistically according to the needs of the person. “A lot of Christian resources out today tell you to avoid debt at all cost. Unfortunately, that is not always an option for all of us, especially among young people. Instead we help people discern when it’s practical or necessary to take on debt and when to avoid it,” said Guillozet.
“We’re hoping this can be a wonderful outreach tool for congregations. There is a lot of anxiety right now around the economy with many communities dealing with job loss, job insecurity and stress in relationships. We think this is one way congregations can address the urgent needs of those around them,” said Salley.
Many churches and Christian leaders only talk about money when it is time to launch their stewardship campaign. Saving Grace will make congregational leaders feel more comfortable discussing finances while helping them make conscious, spirit-driven decisions with their money. Congregations can also use the resource to provide guidance and hope to those facing financial instability or anxiety right now.
Philip J. Brooks is a writer and content developer with the leader communications team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.