Outreach and Your Finances
by Mike and Elizabeth Murphy
Several years ago, we looked at our neighborhood and wondered where to begin when it came to reaching out to our neighbors. We had no idea that finances would be the key that unlocked a ministry.
We lived in an affluent neighborhood that we had really stretched to move into. Everyone looked like they had it made, but we hadn’t. We had just come off a job loss and a change of profession that involved a less predictable income. Our finances were an enormous struggle. What we discovered over time was that everyone else had the same issues. No matter how they looked on the outside, everyone had difficulty with money.
Our hearts’ desire was to reach couples. So, we had coffee at our home and invited several couples. One man in particular sat with a scowl on his face the entire time. We talked about Crown Ministries and told the couples about the difference it had made in our marriage to study the subject of money from God’s perspective. We were very vulnerable. When we offered to do a study in our home, the first person in line was the man with the scowl.
During the twelve weeks that we met, our relationships with these couples grew. We had all come out of the “financial closet” together, and we enjoyed a new level of intimacy that made spiritual discussions much easier. Many of these people were regular church attendees, but not yet believers. At the end, we weren’t ready to stop meeting so we decided to continue with another Bible study and invite other couples to join us. The study and couples continued to grow.
The man with the scowl renewed his commitment to Christ and became a spiritual leader in his home and an enthusiastic servant in his church. One couple who had been struggling with a sick child found their marriage renewed and enjoyed like-mindedness in parenting that they had never known before. Two other couples with a solid faith in Christ found ways to reach out beyond their church walls and began serving in their neighborhood. It was outreach in a whole new way and it all started with finances!
We tend to think if our faith walk is difficult and others know it, they might not be attracted to Jesus. They might think He is not big enough or that they are not good enough for Him. This is such mixed up thinking! We actually had a neighbor say to us, “If you are good enough for God, I must be good enough for Him too!” An odd comment, but she had seen our struggles and watched God walk us through them.
Steps in Reaching Out
1. The first step in reaching out is always prayer. Pray that those in your sphere of influence will feel your compassion and feel comfortable enough to share their struggles with you. Pray that God will give you wisdom to know what and when to share about your own financial difficulties. Remember, money is the number one problem in the lives of most married couples, and singles as well.
2. The second step is to be practical in your own finances. As a ministry leader you are being watched by those around you. Here are a few ideas to help you handle your money in a God-honoring way:
Pay by cash instead of using credit.
Shop when things are on sale.
Plan your spending with a budget.
Use a list to guard against impulse buying.
Do what you can to reduce costs, like pack a lunch instead of eating out.
Live within your means.
3. Next, provide an opportunity for your friends and neighbors to hear that God has a great deal to say about money. People are always shocked to hear that the Bible says more about money than it does about the subjects of heaven, hell, and faith combined.
We have shared the budget template endorsed by Crown Ministries (available at www.crownministries.org) many times over the years with everyone from recent college graduates and singles, to engaged couples, to friends who’ve been married for 25 years.
4. The last step toward reaching out through finances is to participate. Walk this walk with those around you. We have participated in at least seven Crown Ministries’ studies. It’s a battle that is never over. We’ve learned new things in every group and connected on a very deep level with those we’ve studied with.
There are amazing things God can do when you combine outreach and personal finances. To God be the glory, we’ve seen the great things He has done!