Breaking Debt-Talk Taboo in Church

One of the verses I quoted was Luke 14;28

DH = Dear Husband

“Thank you,” said the woman who was sitting behind us at the end of the church service. “I really appreciate your courage in sharing. I’m sure that what you said touched everyone here.”

“I have so much I want to talk with you about,” said one of the greeters. Her eyes were welling. “Could we have a coffee some time?”

“Thank you for your message,” said the young father of two toddlers. And he told me about the struggles his parents had had with money as well as the plans that he and his wife were trying to sort out.

“Can you send me information about that book?” asked the pastor’s brother as he passed me his e-mail address. I told him I’d be happy to. I had spoken about Dave Ramsey’s book as part of my talk. “It was excellent,” he said – and then paused intentionally, holding my gaze to let me know it was not a trite comment. “It really was.”

DH and I spoke at church this morning. About two months ago, our pastor approached us and asked if we would be willing to give a testimony about our journey out of debt as a full sermon. He was doing a series on the renewal of the mind, and he wanted to touch upon the topic of money. I suggested to him that perhaps it would be better to ask someone else – someone who had long had personal finances all figured out. He responded by saying that most people struggle with money, and that since we had done so much thinking and soul searching about our debt, we were in a good position to share our thoughts and experiences. We accepted. And this morning, we spoke at the pulpit.

Our message will eventually be available as a podcast, and I’ll provide a link to it when it is, but more important than what we said was how people responded to it. Have you ever been to a presentation that touched people so profoundly that they were speechless for a period of time afterwards? It was like that. After he had returned to his seat, DH actually broke the slightly awkward silence with a joke. Chuckles rippled through the congregation, and the pastor finally found his voice. “What can I say but ”Thank you’?” he said. He later explained that he had thought he would do a wrap up for our talk, but that when the time came, he couldn’t find the words.

My writing of a weekly blog post about our journey out of debt has had the effect of making me very comfortable talking about money struggles. I sometimes forget that it’s still a taboo topic. But it is, and most people suffering from financial stress do so in silence. “Nobody talks about this stuff,” said the greeter during our conversation. “I mean you hear the statistics about high debt levels, but nobody ever talks about their own debt. You hear from the people who have paid off their mortgages, but you never hear from the ones who are sinking in debt.”

I had a sense that the floodgates had broken, and that people were relieved – but didn’t quite know what to do or say. I believe that many open money talks took place around the various lunch tables of our congregation after church today. “You were courageous,” I heard more than once. But while the public speaking made me nervous, the topic held no anxiety for me. No courage required.

A man with whom DH had only ever spoken at a surface level approached him to share his precarious employment and financial stress, his eyes welling up.

“You got me thinking of the money messages I received in my childhood,” said the pastor. “My parents always argued about what to buy. I learned that money was something to fight about, and that creditors were to be held at bay – meanwhile, you’d buy boats and hockey equipment …” DH couldn’t believe that even the pastor had been moved by our testimony.

“I wrote down the line that [DH] repeated,” a friend said to me over the phone this evening. “I think I was meant to hear it.”

“Maybe this was bigger than we can know,” said DH a couple of hours ago. I think he’s right. And I’m amazed. I didn’t know that by opening up to present our story, we’d be tapping into the stress of so many – offering unaccustomed relief by a sheer acknowledgement that debt problems exist  – and real people, not just statistics, have them. I didn’t realize, even though we were speaking on a Sunday morning at church, that we were providing ministry.

Do you see that debt struggles have, among other things, a spiritual element? Have you ever felt the relief of knowing that someone else shared your struggles?


Comments are welcome.


 

 

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Wow, Prudence, you were definitely spirit led on this. I can picture the relief people had at knowing that they aren’t alone in their financial struggles. Satan wants them to think they are. You’re getting to help lead people out of that bondage. I’m in awe! 🙂

  • I think people want relief and comfort to know they are not alone. I think its great you were willing to stand up in front of people and share your story. I’m sure you touched a lot of people and hopefully they can learn a think or two from you both. Bravo!

    • Thank you, Tonya. These online discussions are good preparation for the face-to-face discussions. I was just surprised at how many people seemed to want to talk about it! I really do look forward to ongoing talks with those who feel ready to take their own journeys out of debt.

  • Great stuff. Big leap blogging to speaking in front of your church. I’m sure your story helped so many. It’s good o know that you’re not the only one with these type of problems, that others are experiencing these issues and are seeking help.

    • It really is good for people to know that others share the experience of debt. It can be so isolating otherwise. I knew that going into this talk, but I definitely didn’t anticipate the response we got. Thank you, Brian!

  • As you said it didn’t take courage for you, instead you and your DH demonstrated a willingness to lead by example so congratulations! I know that I had and still have a couple of close friends who are in serious debt so they understood what I was dealing with. I just wanted to be done so badly with debt and that is harder to relate with, the intensity of wanting debt freedom as not everyone shares that. I’d like to listen to that podcast when it becomes available.

  • We were also very comfortable with our debts for a long time – like your friends who don’t share your intensity. It was the stress of job loss that made our debts unbearable and our desire to be debt-free intense. Unfortunately, it so often takes bad fortune for people to get on a good track. Thank you for your interest in hearing our talk, Kassandra!

  • It’s amazing the difference you can make by talking about debt and letting people know they are not alone. What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

  • i definitely see spiritual issues as part of our debt struggles. The Bible has so much to say on working, being good stewards, helping others, contentment, living minimally – and there is reason for that. We can serve but one master – money or God. I’m relieved to be able to share our struggles and challenges online and find like minded folks. It’s a relief to know that lots of people are just trying to figure things out.

    • The online world offers much more opportunity for frank discussion about debt than the face-to-face world. But maybe we, as debt-bloggers and readers, might be able to change that a bit by starting to talk – where it’s welcome (and it isn’t welcome in every scenario!) ourselves. Thank you for your comment, Kristen!

  • I know what you mean. I am now actually getting pretty comfortable when it comes to talking finances with people outside the blogosphere. I still haven’t completely spilled the beans of my situation with my friends and family, but I’m certainly more open to it now that I talk about PF all the time online. 🙂

    • So interesting that it’s often friends and family who are the ones we’re least likely to be open with! What’s that about? It’s such a burden shed just to be able to talk about debt. It’s great that you are getting more comfortable when it comes to talking about finances IRL, Kayla.

  • This is SO awesome. Money and debt are such taboo topics everywhere, including in the church, where we are supposed to be able to open about about our burdens. Good for your guys for breaking the silence. Great work, my friend!

  • I am impressed that you got up there and shared. We had a series a few months back that talked about money, and it touched nerves, but not in the way that someone being frank and sharing their own story would be, at all.
    I really wish there were more conversations and topics like that. To quote one of my friends, “Everyone thinks the bible is about sex. It’s not, it’s about money.”

    • I’d be interested in talking with your friend about that assessment!
      When you say “nerves” were touched during the sermon series at your church, do you mean that people got defensive? Like you, I hope for a shift in our culture that will make frank talks about money and money struggles more common and accepted.In the mean time, all we can do is to keep talking – right through the discomfort of it. Thanks for your comment, Anne.

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