Ten tips for understanding your money story

The way we learned about money from our families affects how we handle money matters at church. Becoming more aware and reflective about our family money story will lead to more choices in how we function in church budget meetings, stewardship campaigns, salary conversations and financial shortfalls. I learned from my parents and maternal grandparents both to tithe and to be frugal, and those lifelong lessons affect my leadership at church.

  1. Write one page that expresses what you learned from your family of origin about money. Read it over and consider how that learning gets expressed in your ministry (for better and for worse).
  2. Ask your parents individually, if they are living, what they learned from their parents about money. Stay curious rather than judgmental in this conversation. Have it in person if possible.
  3. Observe how your siblings and cousins deal with money. Is it different from or the same as the way you deal with it?
  4. Assess your connection with your extended family. Are you connected with the most financially successful person (and do you know who that is)? What about the least financially successful? Notice the family attitudes toward these people.
  5. Sketch a quick family tree and write down what kind of work people did over the generations, if you know. Are there other clergy or active church leaders? What kind of financial sacrifices did people make? What kind of success did they have?
  6. Note the level of anxiety around money in your family of origin. Notice how information is shared or not shared. How much openness is there between the generations?
  7. Consider the strengths you received from your family in this area. They may come quickly to mind, or you may have to think hard. Even if your values and approach to money differ sharply from your family, see if you can generate at least one idea.
  8. Notice the attitude toward gift-giving in your family. Is it balanced, or do some give more than others? Are gifts freely given or is there a sense of obligation?
  9. Remember your own coming of age. How did you become financially independent? What were the messages you received around this? How did others become independent?
  10. Give thanks for your family, just as they are, in this arena of money.

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