Edwin Friesen. God, Money, and Me: Exploring the Spiritual Significance of Money in Our Lives (Mennonite Foundation of Canada, 2004)
Rev. Micah James
This text, formed as a discussion and study guide, immediately dives into the conversation of money. The study guide is broken up into three sections: Money – God and Me, Managing – Integrity and Creativity, and Sharing – Worship and Generosity. There are a total of twelve lessons, intended to be done one each week for twelve weeks.
This books offers a very user-friendly layout and flow. From the very beginning it uses scripture, discussion questions, commentary and reflection to get the conversation started. In the same way, I could see where congregations and communities that need a tool for a deeper conversation would be frustrated and unchallenged. In addition to the discussion and reflection, there are several opportunities to do “homework” on the topic at hand in order to more clearly develop your own ideas and thoughts.
As the study guide walks the conversation partners through the content, the theological point of view on money and stewardship seem to be very palpable to many diverse contexts. The questions asked as a part of the guide seem to pull out the personal reflection and struggles as opposed to the cultural or political challenges with money. In trying to make it as general as possible, sometimes the guide makes assumptions about theological understandings and interpretations of scripture in order to further the conversation flow along the lines of the topic at hand. I could see where again, for those seeking deeper study and theological work on the topic of stewardship, this would pose some challenges in being able to use this material.
The part of this study that I found the most interesting is the lesson in the third section where you analyze and study your congregations spending plan or budget. There is a facilitated conversation about whether the budget reflects the priorities of your community. It asks the group to discuss givers vs. attendees, reflect on whether the budget accurately lives out the churches mission statement, and whether the 20/80 theory is alive in their congregation. Out of all the lessons and topics, I see this conversation as the one with the most potential for lively and energizing conversation about where money intersects ministry. This conversation would have to be guided with intention and love, but there is potential from some energy and movement coming overflowing from this lesson. After reading this lesson, it is possible within my own congregation to utilize similar conversation starters as we consider where our vision is aligned with our budget.
Overall, this would be a good primer for anyone beginning to engage in conversations about stewardship and discipleship and how they are in relationship. As with any study guide, it is necessary to discern your audience and your context when considering curriculum and I believe in this case it would be best suited for beginners to the conversation.
Rev. Micah James, Minister to Families and Children, Northway Christian Church – Dallas, TX www.northwaychristian.org