In this issue of Tomorrow, we shine a spotlight on several topics that are at the heart of MMBB’s ministry to the members, churches and organizations we serve.
We begin with our second article from Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, Ph. D, “Putting Money in Its Proper Place” which focuses on financial preparedness for pastoral leaders. McMickle discusses how pastors have been formally educated in matters of the church, but lack basic education when it comes to personal finance.
In the first quarter issue, we provided an update about our online financial and retirement benefits solutions. The article, “Corporate Email Management: Why it’s important for your church or faith based organization” outlines best practices for setting up and using corporate email as MMBB moves toward a paperless billing system.
We conclude our three-part series on Debt Management with a focus on how to identify and ultimately eliminate debt. It provides guidance to help you move toward financial wellness by providing valuable tips to get you started on eliminating debt.
In the article, “Financial Wellness – An Idea Whose Time Has Come” we discuss financial wellness in the workplace. It demonstrates how employers benefit from providing employees with the tools to achieve financial wellness such as the financial planning offered by MMBB to members at no cost. When pastors and lay workers feel more confident about their finances it leads to greater productivity and freedom to concentrate on ministry.
“The Young Pastor’s Initiative: Investing in the Future of Pastoral Leadership” introduces MMBB’s outreach to young pastoral leaders. What we learned from this venture will be the basis for future efforts to address the unique needs and concerns of young pastors and clergy.
As the hazy, lazy days of summer approach, let us not forget that financial wellness is a year-round commitment. Being prepared for your financial future takes time and effort. MMBB is here to assist you with the tools you need to achieve your goals.
It is our privilege to serve you.
Wishing you a safe and restful summer.
Louis P. Barbarin, CPA
Chief Executive Officer
By Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, Ph.D.
When most persons begin training for the ministry they are taught about the skills of biblical exegesis, various approaches to theological reflection, and about the practical skills needed for pastoral ministry. Whether in a seminary setting or a local church, they learn how to administer the ordinances of the church (sacraments for some Christians). They rehearse the litanies and liturgical practices of baptism, communion, the christening of infants, and the funerals and burials of fellow believers. Almost every pastor or preacher who is a part of the MMBB family has been given some instruction in every area mentioned above.
However, it is doubtful if many of those same MMBB pastors and preachers have been provided with any instruction in matters of personal finance as part of their formal, academic training for ministry. They may have had some classroom exposure to the work of preparing and keeping an eye on a church budget. The question is whether they have been provided with any guidance on how to manage their personal finances? Every Christian leader should lead by example when it comes to modeling good money management and financial planning.
It may be that preachers give less attention to finances than they do to matters of faith, because they see themselves as standing on solid biblical ground in doing so. After all, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Perhaps preachers believe that they should not focus on matters of money because God will provide for their needs on a day-by-day basis. Perhaps they believe that like the Hebrews who journeyed from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land that God will send them a daily portion of the modern equivalent of manna from heaven. In fact, in Matthew 6:33 Jesus specifically challenges his disciples to “give no thought to what you will eat or what you will wear.’ The promise seems to be that when we are seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, that what Jesus calls “all these things will be added to us.”
Roman Catholic priests take a vow of poverty so that they do not have to be distracted with matters of money and finances. Since most people reading this essay have taken no such vow, and since they probably do not aspire to a lifetime of poverty, I would suggest that pastors and church leaders possess some tools with which to manage the money and other resources made available to them by God and by their own hard work.
Preachers, like all other persons need to understand that home ownership is the first step toward financial security. Owning any property that allows for the accumulation of equity and cash value, and that can be used to leverage other financial transactions is a time-tested approach to building a solid financial plan. A second step involves living within a budget that can track income versus expenses. In our consumer society with its constant barrage of invitations to buy things (whether we need them or not), a budget can serve as a reminder of what we can or cannot afford during any given month. Third, it is never too early in our working lives to think about establishing and maintaining a good credit score. Everything a person may want to acquire over life from an automobile, to a home loan or mortgage, to a simple credit card is largely determined by their credit score. A credit score is a reflection of a person’s financial habits, and is an indicator of how much debt they have amassed and how promptly they pay their bills. Carrying large amounts of debt and being able only to pay the minimum amount due each month is a path to financial disaster.
The money we are able to save for ourselves benefits us through the wonder of compound interest. The unpaid balances on credit accounts results in an exorbitant interest rate on that balance that is of benefit to whomever that amount is owed. The next step involves learning about regularly and intentionally saving a portion of their income. Beyond the simple matter of savings is the matter of making long-term investments whether in stocks or bonds or a retirement account. Clergy also need to discover the importance of record-keeping in preparation for filing their income taxes. There is also the matter of maintaining an emergency or “rainy day” fund that can carry them through those unexpected
We are required to have insurance for our automobiles and for our homes as a safeguard against accidents and loss of property. Clergy also need to give equal attention to other forms of insurance. There are two standard types of life insurance. One is whole life insurance that provides money for our beneficiaries upon our death. It also produces cash value over the years which serves as a secondary form of saving money for the future. The other form is term life insurance that provides for our beneficiaries without creating cash value. There is also long-term care insurance in case there is a need to spend time in a nursing home. The best time to get that kind of insurance is while we are younger and healthier.
While I am far from an expert in financial management, I have been blessed over the years by following a very simple three-step process for money management. It begins with tithing 10% of my annual income to God through my local church, or in my current circumstances to Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. I may give more than that to various other causes over the course of the year, but for me everything begins with that 10% tithe. The second step is to save 10% of my income each year through various savings instruments including retirement plans. The third step is the discipline of managing all your remaining living expenses on the remaining 80% of your income. I am sure that representatives of MMBB will be able to help you put these basic principles into practice.
Marvin McMickle, Ph.D is President, Professor of Church Leadership, and Director of the Program of Black Church Studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, NY. He was elected to be the 12th President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in 2011. From 1987-2011 he was Senior Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church of Cleveland, Ohio. where he led the church in establishing a ministry for people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. It was the first church-based program of its kind in the entire country! From 1976-1986 he served as pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey. While there he served as president of the New Jersey Council of Churches from 1982-1986. Dr. McMickle has taught homiletics at several institutions including New York, New Brunswick and Princeton Theological Seminaries. He is the author of numerous books, sermons and articles in print and is a sought after preacher and speaker.
By Rev. Dr. Patricia L. Hunter CFP®
At MMBB Financial Services we understand the added stress you can suffer when carrying the burden of debt. This can cause extra anxiety for those in ministry who are expected to lead by example. Many people feel overwhelmed at the first sign of debt and are unsure about what they need to do to get their finances back on track.
This three-part series on how to effectively manage your debt was created to provide guidance to help you move toward financial wellness. Part-one focused on establishing goals, part-two on developing a budget, and in this final article, we focus on how to identify and ultimately eliminate debt.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to debt often all it takes is one unexpected expense to throw you off track. Paying off your debt takes time and discipline but it’s well worth the peace of mind – both mentally and financially. Eliminating debt begins with reviewing your bills and your budget (as described in Part 2).
Here are four steps to take to identify and begin to reduce debt:
Identifying current expenses is a necessary measure to provide an accurate picture of your spending and determining your total debt. It is important to understand the reasons behind your spending habits and if applicable, your spouse’s as well. Asking tough questions such as what can I do without and in what areas can I trim spending is essential to making the changes that reduce your expenses and debt load. There are also cultural pressures that can tempt us to ‘keep up with the Jones’ but at what cost? At the end of the day, you not your neighbors must be
comfortable with your financial decisions.
For many people, credit cards can be the largest source of debt. If most of your debt is on credit cards and other interest driven accounts, you will need to review the terms of the accounts and know your exact interest rates. The best strategy when trying to eliminate credit card debt is to pay off as much as possible on the card with the highest interest rate first. You might choose to pay off the card with the smallest balance instead; that may not be the most impactful but it can provide momentum since it does eliminate one card balance.
Keep in mind if you are a long-standing customer with good credit, a simple phone call to your creditors requesting to lower your interest rate might reduce your rate. Even a small reduction can save hundreds of dollars annually. Also, card issuers typically charge interest daily, so making two payments a month two weeks apart will substantially lower the balance over time. Remember once a credit card has a zero balance, cut it up to avoid the temptation of racking up new charges. Be prepared to close the account if there is too much enticement to use it again.
Some people graduate from college or seminary with a significant amount of student debt. It’s important to treat a student loan like a mortgage and pay off as much as possible because the interest is accruing. Inquire with your church or employer to see if they are willing to make some arrangement that can help with this type of debt. It is important to explore all your options.
Facing debt can be hard but getting organized and coming up with a set payment schedule to ensure you stay on track is key. Be sure to:
These valuable tips are sure to get you started on eliminating debt now.
With the introduction of the Ariel online platform for financial and retirement/benefits solutions, MMBB is moving toward a paperless environment to provide state-of-the-art financial services, increased operational efficiencies and reduced cyber security risk.
As part of the implementation of this solution our communication methods with members and employers will change with email becoming the preferred method. This evolution means that churches and faith-based organizations need to make every effort to employ the best practices for corporate email management and security.
One of the first rules to follow in creating a corporate or professional email address is to use your own domain. A domain is an organization’s unique name on the Internet. The chosen name combined with a generic top-level domain (gTLD), such as .com or .org, make up the Internet domain name. Even if you do not have a website today, you can obtain a domain name which secures that domain for future use. Establishing a clear corporate or organizational identity is often the primary reason behind obtaining a custom domain however, there are several others to keep in mind. A custom domain email address is easier to remember and will become readily recognizable, and clearly associated with your church or organization. Many organizations use an email address that is tied to their internet service provider (ISP) because it is free, however you must be aware that your business and operations are dependent on the continued use of that internet provider. Should you cancel your service your email address must be changed.
Finding and securing a domain name, if you don’t already have one, is easy and inexpensive. Listed below are the steps you should follow to obtain a custom domain:
Providing email addresses for your staff using your own domain is just the start. Even small churches and organizations should create a corporate email policy to mitigate their organization’s risk. If you need assistance creating a corporate email policy there are many online resources at your disposal, such as http://www.freechurchforms.com, that provide templates for use in creating your corporate email policy. The corporate email policy formally outlines how employees may use email by setting guidelines for what is considered acceptable and unacceptable use. The corporate email policy should warn and guide employees against email threats such as viruses, spam and phishing attacks. The policy may place limits on what types of files employees can open, download or exchange with others. It should also outline what to do if an employee receives an offensive email, to protect the organization against legal liability.
A corporate email policy may also include language covering personal use of the organization’s email account, such as whether personal emails are acceptable. Detailed guidance regarding prohibited content and the treatment of confidential information should also be included. The policy may also address compliance and email retention. To enforce the guidelines outlined in your corporate email policy, an organization should conduct regular staff training that outlines email best practices. By educating your staff on corporate email and implementing the proper measures to protect your organization you can alleviate some of the risk that may come with corporate email usage.
Email has transformed the way that people communicate in the business world. It is now a commonly preferred method of communication in the workplace as it enhances efficiency by allowing people to quickly send and respond to messages as well as send messages to multiple people at one time. Communicating via email is now standard operating procedure for most everyone, both personally or professionally, so make sure that you and your staff understand the best practices for corporate email management.
In 2016 MMBB launched the Young Pastor’s Initiative as part of our strategy to connect with younger pastoral leaders. We especially wanted to learn what the priorities and challenges were for pastors/ministers age 18-45 as they consider their current financial circumstances and project ahead to their future needs.
Although the age range for young pastors is typically 18-35, we selected a wider scope to capture not only young pastors and younger seminarians, but also second-career pastors and seminarians, and bi-vocational pastors as well as those who have not (yet) attended seminary.
We understand that each age demographic has varying needs at different stages of their lives and we kept that in mind when we designed the focus groups. Hearing directly from young pastors is critical to ensure that we address their expressed concerns to help them chart a course to achieve financial well-being now and into the future. We especially wanted to find out what young pastors and clergy already know about MMBB’s ministry and establish greater brand awareness and value for the services we offer. Our goal was to gather data and “take the temperature” of this demographic based on the responses we received.
Twelve focus groups averaging 8-10 participants were held over a six-month period. All the groups were diverse in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and denominational affiliation and included MMBB members and non-members. In order to assess varying regional needs, MMBB staff moderated groups in the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest and the West Coast/Pacific Northwest. To insure consistency and gain valuable analytics, each MMBB staff person who served as moderator was given a template of questions that focused on the following categories:
Although regional differences emerged, the common concerns were seminary debt, questions about adequate compensation and about how to negotiate compensation.
Based on research conducted in 2015, we learned that young pastoral leaders whether MMBB members or non-members, were concerned about financial wellness and debt. They cited outstanding student loans and lack of knowledge of financial management as issues which cause them the most stress. Younger pastors are much more likely to be interested in education on personal financial management and planning. Responses from the focus groups affirmed the need for greater financial management tools, particularly when it came to finding ways to increase savings. One 27- year-old pastor noted, “I realize that not planning for the future is not an option. But I need help with how to do that given what I am earning.”
Feedback ranged from acknowledging that “not knowing how much to save has influenced whether they thought saving was important” to “a pastor’s salary is not enough to live on and save” and admitting to “having to make a tradeoff between having funds to live on in the present versus saving for retirement.” Another pastor observed, “It can be challenging to remember that I am planning for the future and that means deferring gratification for some of the “now” items I want and in some cases, need.”
When asked about financial matters that are important to them at this point in their personal lives and professional ministry, the overwhelming feedback in all regions centered around “managing student loans,” “eliminating debt,” and “debt management.” Unfortunately, this was not a surprise given that our research has revealed that debt stress is twice as high among pastors as the average American. This is one area that will need even greater emphasis as we expand our connection and support to young pastors.
Although there were several participants who were unfamiliar with MMBB, those that knew of MMBB held favorable opinions about MMBB including that we “advocate for pastors,” “are thought of as reliable, accessible and stable” and “MMBB had a presence in seminaries.” When it was mentioned that financial planning is a benefit of membership at MMBB, one pastor volunteered, “If a financial planner can make the connection between working with them and an improvement in my finances, that would increase the value for me of being a member of MMBB.”
Some of the biggest takeaways were their suggestions for engaging younger pastors. It was no surprise that social media was highlighted as an important communications tool to reach younger pastoral leaders but several also reiterated that social media should not replace interacting with a staff person by phone or face-to-face. One minister who is also a chaplain spoke of “the need for MMBB to let young pastors see your heart and your commitment to this ministry.” As we formulate a more targeted strategy to serve this demographic we are planning to follow up on our findings by connecting even earlier with young ministers in seminary, promoting financial literacy as a path to financial wellness, and enlisting younger members who can share the benefits of MMBB membership firsthand.
Perhaps you have heard or read about financial wellness in the workplace. It is one of the new buzzwords used to describe the range of financial services that some companies are making available to their employees. So just what is financial wellness? Tom Rath and Jim Harter, leaders of workplace well-being research for Gallup, define financial wellness as “effectively managing your economic life.”
Financial wellness can also be defined as a complex balance of the psychological, spiritual, and physical aspects of money management that results in a financially healthy life.1 Those who achieve financial wellness are able to live a life characterized by:
Essentially, financial wellness is a state in which you practice wise planning, spending and saving with regards to the financial resources which God puts at your disposal. Even though we all have different amounts of financial resources available to us, living with a sense of financial wellness means that you have an honest understanding of your financial circumstances and you manage them so you can be prepared for the inevitable financial adjustments that arise.
The concept of financial wellness may be a relatively new idea, but the Bible teaches about money often and offers financial wisdom as critical to a godly life. “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3-4 (NKJV) At MMBB we understand the specific economic challenges of clergy and church workers, especially issues concerning debt that often cause considerable stress and distract attention from doing ministry. Most people are managing several financial realities that can seem increasingly difficult to prioritize. For that reason, financial wellness is highly individualized. Our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals take a more integrated approach that addresses the totality of financial priorities while zeroing in on the one or two which meet the goals of each individual or family.
The underlying purpose of financial wellness is financial preparedness, a goal desired by most of us. However, not everyone has access to the kinds of financial services and benefits they feel would be most helpful. What’s missing is a more comprehensive approach to financial wellness, one that helps people address the day-to-day financial responsibilities and deal with unexpected financial concerns while building lasting financial strength and stability. Whether you are concerned with paying off debt, establishing an emergency fund, saving for education or retirement planning, a wellness approach provides solutions tailored to your unique circumstances by addressing short-term needs while working toward long-range goals. MMBB offers financial planning at no cost to our members and we know when pastors and lay church workers feel more confident about their financial circumstances it leads to increased productivity and the freedom to concentrate on ministry.
MMBB financial planners guide you to make better, more informed decisions and successfully manage a long-term financial strategy so that you are empowered to create financial wellness at every point in your life.
Portions of this article were published in the January/February 2017issue of Church Executive magazine under the title, “Financial Wellness:an added benefit for your staff.”
1 Financial Finesse Think Tank, 2014, Financial Finesse, Inc.
Long-Term Care Insurance is used to help fund in-home care services, as well as pay for adult care or nursing home stay.
MMBB invited ACSIA Partners, one of the largest long-term care insurance agencies in the nation, to assist our members and their families in preparing for the future through expert advice of their licensed representatives. Underwritten by Transamerica, ACSIA Partners will facilitate the enrollment process for MMBB members, spouses and extended family between the ages of 18-79 in a Long-Term Care policy.
Transamerica is offering eligible enrollees through MMBB a 5% premium discount. The underwriting process will include a telephone interview, a review of medical records and a potential face to face assessment.
If you are interested in learning more about this program, please contact our Long-Term Care Insurance provider (ACSIA Partners) at 888.640.0272 or visit http://www.ltc-mmbb.org/.
Please be advised that this is not an endorsement by MMBB of ACSIA Partners or Transamerica.