Be sure to put your own (financial) oxygen mask on first

2016 7 19 Darryl photoDarryl Dahlheimer is program director of Lutheran Social Services (LLS) of Minnesota, a partner of Everence, who provides free phone-based financial counseling for Mennonite Church USA members.

All of us who have flown have heard the flight attendants’ spiel about safety. The part that always catches my attention is the reminder that if you are traveling with others who need assistance, and the cabin pressure drops, be sure to put your own oxygen mask on first, so that you can then assist them.

Pastors have a unique role within the church community, and it often requires being “on” and responsive to the many needs of members.

There is also an unspoken pressure to be a role model.

One Mennonite Church USA pastor who called LSS acutely felt this divergence between the public aspect of being highly regarded as the leader of his congregation, but personally quite worried and intimidated by tax debt. The financial counselor and he struck up a supportive relationship which he later called his “accountability calls.” LSS understands that it can be challenging to manage income tax aspects of being self-employed status. Together, they reviewed his total budget and made some adjustments to reflect recent changes (his wife going back to college was a good thing, it just reduced income) – and made an action plan to contact the IRS and address the debt. The financial counseling has also provided safe space to talk about related financial concerns that one might not be able to tell others, such as exploring worries about overall church income. He is now better positioned to weather any other changes ahead.

Another common financial issue facing pastors is student loan debt. Many pursue church leadership as a calling, but in getting their degrees, also acquire daunting amounts of debt. LSS has expert student loan repayment counseling, to help you understand all your options and make a plan that fits your total financial picture.

There are many churches showing prophetic witness to the epidemic of debt in our country, and to the value of building a culture of financial wellness in our church communities — for stewardship and for justice. LSS welcomes pastors to call for a personal finance check-up. Getting this kind of support can only make more congruent and stronger leaders.

Everence has partnered since 2008 with LSS Financial Counseling to be sure that members have access to free, trustworthy, compassionate and expert help with credit card and student loan debt, foreclosure prevention and overall money management issues.

LSS’ very first Everence client was a family receiving financial counseling via phone with their pastor on the line for support. To date, over 1,000 members have sought this help, and over one million dollars of debt has been repaid through LSS debt management plans.

Every Everence member is eligible for up to six sessions per year of financial counseling through LSS. The service is completely confidential – LSS only reports total utilization numbers back to Everence, never any names or personal details.

Pastors are used to giving confidentiality and non-judgmental support. This service is an opportunity to balance the scales and receive that privacy and support as a human.

To make an appointment, call LSS at 1-877-809-0039 or learn more at www.lssmn.org/everence