By Angela Barker Jackson
For nearly four years Central has engaged the economic challenges facing future ministers through research, education, collaboration, and adaptive change. To date, more than two dozen students have participated in our ongoing efforts to address these ministry challenges by learning more about personal finance, meeting with financial coaches, articulating a theology of money, equipping themselves for organizational financial leadership, and preparing to lead others in faithful financial practices. Jessica Jenkins, a student in Central’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, has experienced phenomenal transformation and success in financial preparation.
Being 23 years old and moving 12 hours away from the only family I have ever known to a place where I knew absolutely no one, was easily one of the hardest processes that I have ever endured, yet one for which I have also been most at peace. When I first moved to Nashville, TN, from Philadelphia, PA, I had no job and no friends. I did have a lot of faith in what God would provide, especially as God was the only reason I would leave my family in the first place.
In my first year, I began the Money and Ministry program that was offered at Central. Initially, I saw it as a resource to help cover the cost of my books and supplies; however, it proved to be so much more than I could have imagined. When I first met with a financial coach, I talked about being raised by two parents who are polar opposites when it comes to finances. One is a spender, and the other is an extreme saver. As a result, I can bounce around being either, and I did not want to be that way. I wanted to create balance, be debt free, and begin saving for retirement.
I do not want to work forever. So I started with budgeting, which I learned how to do properly with my coach and a course offered at my church. This opened up the doors for me to learn more about finances and saving options for my future. I started to put the maximum contributions into my 401B at my job, learned about life insurance, and enrolled in my first life policy. I even went a step further by taking a course on life insurance and thus became a licensed insurance sales person in the state of Tennessee.
I attempted to work a second job, but that did not last long with the demands of my primary job and seminary. However, I was able to work extra hours at my current job in order to apply more to my debts. I paid off one of my credit cards in full and have one left that I am currently eliminating.
I keep my debt before my eyes – not to be depressed about owing money, but as a way to motivate myself. I see how my planning is paying off and literally changing my life. Having someone to be accountable to with my finances has been beneficial. Being vulnerable about your money situation is hard, but owing a bunch of money and being overwhelmed trying to do it on your own is much harder.
I think most people would look at me being 27 and think that I am financially on a great course. I want people to know that any age is a good age to get your finances under control. It is not easy, it definitely is not pretty, but it is worth it. When you are freed financially, you are able to give freely to God and follow God’s call on your life.
Central continues to embrace the systemic changes necessary to equip our students for the economic situations they face as individuals and faith leaders. We made the shift from procedural to relational processes for financial planning, and students like Jessica are experiencing transformation firsthand. Stay tuned to hear more about these and others ways in which Central continues to develop leaders who are prepared to meet the unique challenges of today’s (and tomorrow’s) ministry landscape.