Select Page

Has your family ever struggled to make ends meet on a ministry income?

If you answered “Yes!” you’re going to want to check out my conversation with financial expert and bestselling author Rachel Cruze. Rachel and her father Dave Ramsey teach people how to win with money—how to avoid debt, how to spend wisely, and how to save for the future. Keep reading for Rachel’s encouragement for pastors’ wives and some smart money tips that can help your family find financial peace.

If you want to hear everything we discussed, click HERE to listen.

 

Since you work with a lot of church staff, what financial areas do ministry couples really struggle with the most?

Rachel Cruze:

Yeah, money’s such an interesting topic when we talk about this, even people that are in a faith walk and even those that aren’t. It’s funny that the problems and the struggles seem to be universal with just people, us just here trying to handle money. And obviously, through a faith perspective, we have a lens that we look through and how we make decisions. But I mean, a lot of the problems are what most everyone faces. 

With a couple specifically that’s married, there is the idea that opposites attract: one wants to be more on the conservative end and wants to save, while the other one wants to spend and enjoy. One of them loves talking about a budget and doing a budget, and the idea of getting in control of their money sounds so exciting and wonderful. And the other one is like, “Oh gosh, no. I don’t want to do that.” How you’re wired, how you’re created honestly, can come in conflict with each other if you don’t…

1—know how to communicate it effectively. 

2—have a plan to be able to overcome those differences and work as a team, even though you are so different. 

3—have a level of humility to look at each other and say, “Gosh, I could actually learn something from you. There’s something that you have in the way you view the subject that I don’t, and there’s wisdom in that and I want to learn that.” 

 

What encouragement can you give people that just aren’t making a lot of money and probably aren’t ever going to be making a lot of money? 

Rachel Cruze:

When I think about money, the flow of money is important. So money comes in, money goes out. And so that first piece is the income piece like what you’re talking about.

Maybe there is a season where there is have to be extra income supplemented somewhere at some level. And I wouldn’t want that forever to sustain a life, because at that point, whether it’s a decision of—”Oh my gosh, our family, we can’t eat. We don’t have money for food”—those conversations have to happen. 

And then we look at the outputs and the outgo, which is the expenses. But food, shelter, utilities, transportation may cover it for what people make. And what’s hard is that there’s not that margin then to feel like, “Okay, we can go and enjoy, or we can go to a place for a vacation,” or whatever it may be. 

So what I would say is those are the two factors of money that you really do have to look at, because regardless of whether you’re in ministry or you’re a public servant, being a police officer or whatever it may be, the math has to work. You have to be able to buy that food. And so looking at those two parts of the equation are really key. And so maybe there’s seasons where that tightens up on one side or the other, or more income is brought in on one side or the other is a possibility. This is always a difficult subject, it really is, because it’s such a higher calling.

Janet:

Well, that’s true. And then you’ve got the spiritual layer on top of it. If we’re serving God and God has called us into ministry and sacrificial living, then what does that say about me spiritually if I feel like this is not enough money? So you’ve got that extra sense of obligation or responsibility, or ungratefulness I guess, if you think, “Well, I’m not getting paid enough, but this is where God has called us, so what am I supposed to do with that?”

Rachel Cruze:

Yes, yes. And that’s a hard conviction to grapple with. I mean, that is a legitimate way of looking at it, and I guess on my side of the table, ’cause we do, we work with so many churches and so many people. But also can I say as just a member of a local church, we don’t want our pastors to suffer. We don’t want to see that. And that’s a call-out obviously, not necessarily to the audience of this podcast, but those of you that are consistent with having a local church and you call yourself a believer, giving has to be a part of it.

That’s a huge part of our message is that the tithe, that 10% and people that are not of faith, we say, “Just give anywhere. It doesn’t matter.” But if you call yourself an Evangelical Christian and you’re part of a local church, that 10% off the top, it’s a requirement. It’s one of things. I don’t want to be legalistic about it, but it is one of those things. And that helps obviously to a degree open up somewhat of the gates there for administration to actually get paid to a degree, get paid better. 

But no, I wouldn’t want to free people to feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’m not content or I’m complaining,” if you are at a point financially that it’s hard to pay the light bill. I mean, you’re not asking above and beyond, in my opinion, at that point. Those are needs that your family has. And so if that stress is there, that’s not a discontentment. Yeah, that’s a level of actually living and surviving.

Janet:

Well, you said there’s the two sides of it, the income and the outgo. So let’s talk about the outgo first. Lots of times, people who don’t make much money might think, “Well, I don’t make enough money to budget.

 

Why do we need to budget if there’s not that much to begin with? 

Rachel Cruze:

I would say if you feel like your money is tight, that’s even more reason to budget because it is amazing how life just occurs and things just happen throughout the day, throughout the week, and you don’t realize where your money’s going if you don’t have a plan. And to be able to know, “Okay, this is exactly where my money is going.” And as believers, we see ourselves as stewarding what God has given us, that we’re just managing it for Him. And so if you are managing money for a company, you would manage it well, because you have a boss that you have to report to. And in the same way, you could have that same role symbolizing us with our money that you want to be a good steward of that. And for me, that means being intentional with where every penny, every dollar is going.

So we teach zero-based budgeting, which I think is probably the most effective way to budget, and that’s your income for the month. You get out of a sheet of paper and you can just do this at the top. And then minus all of your expenses, including giving and saving should equal zero. So every dollar that’s coming in, it’s assigned somewhere to the give, to the save, to the bills, to the cell phone, to the insurance. Wherever it’s going, you know where your money’s going. 

And that honestly gives people a lot of peace, because you actually have control over, when the money hits my accounts, I’m the one telling it where to go. And we are deciding before we’re in the moment where our money’s going. And so that helps already make decisions. And we’re talking about married couples at the front end of this podcast, same thing. That really alleviates so many money fights and money problems with couples, because you actually have a plan together and to say, “Yeah, here’s our road map for the month when it comes to our money.” 

And we hear this all the time too, that people feel like they got a raise when they do a budget. When you have a budget, it is your guideline to where your money goes, so I would highly recommend anyone and everyone, regardless of where you are, income wise or debt level or anything to be intentional with that. Because I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes people make with money is that they’re not intentional, and so the budget is being intentional.

Janet:

Well, that is the outgo side. Let’s talk a minute about the income side. Side hustles are huge, everybody’s got a side hustle these days. But so many ministry families live in rural areas or small towns, or they don’t have Uber that they can drive or Instacart doesn’t deliver in their area. 

 

What are some ideas for bringing in extra income, especially if you don’t live in a bigger city?

Rachel Cruze:

I would really honestly put so much of my weight on the internet, because there’s just so many ways to make money. Whether it’s being a virtual assistant, whether it’s starting something online, a class maybe, something that you’ve learned in your life. I mean, there’s so many ways to make money from virtual opportunities as well. And that’s where I would probably bank a lot of my money, is to be able to say, “Okay, I’m going to go and find something that I’m already good at.” Is there something that you’re already naturally gifted at? And even people that turn their hobbies into a side business, I mean, that happens a lot. I mean, it’s everything from baking to hair bows. I mean, there’s so much.

So it’s finding creative ways, and I know it’s difficult. I know we’re talking specifically to pastors’ wives, and I’m like, I’m a mom of three little ones and life is tiring. I would rather, on a personal note, I’m like, “It’s easier for me to cut expenses than to think, “Okay, what’s a way to make some extra money?” Because the time aspect as a mom, it’s just not there. And then at the end of the day, by the time everyone goes to bed, it’s 8:00 and you’re exhausted. So that’s where, if that is going to be part of your life for a season, have it be a season and say, “Okay, I’m going to do this for six months. We’re going to do it through the summer, beginning of school year, and by October, I’m going to be done.” Be very specific, ’cause that’s precious cash that’s been coming in from your hard work, right? Is this money going to getting us out of debt? Is this money going to an emergency fund, so we actually have some cushion and some breathing room? Where is this going to be going? 

And again, the goal is that your life, your lifestyle is to a point that your main source of income can supplement that. But it’s these side things, goals that people have, whether it’s for replacing a car, again, getting out of debt, these other money goals they have, that’s really where the side hustle can jump start a lot of this, especially if there’s no margin on just the main source of income.

Host Janet:

Housing these days is a problem for everybody. And it’s a real problem if, for example, you’ve been at a church and you had a parsonage provided. But then you switch jobs to a church that doesn’t have a parsonage and you have to come up with a down payment, and nobody’s salaries escalate at the rate that housing has gone up recently. 

 

How should we approach the issue of finding affordable living arrangements, especially on a more limited income?

Rachel Cruze:

I would say go put the whole idea of owning a home to the side for a minute, because I think everyone wants to jump right into homeownership. And to your point, I mean, it’s insane. It’s insane right now. And if you can’t afford it, and again, I would say this to anyone across the board, don’t do it. It’s going to stress you out. If you go and you put nothing down on a house, you get a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which is what a lot of people do. And even still, that payment is taking 30, 40, 50% of your income. It’s hard to do other things with your income, because it’s mostly all just going straight to housing. 

I would recommend renting for a season and make it a goal to get a down payment of at least 5%. And again, that may take you four or five years, but that’s okay. And our world, how quickly things shift, whether it’s election years, whether it’s a recession that happens that we went through in ’07, ’08, ’09, or the pandemic. Things just change so quickly. And homeownership is something I think is important for everyone in their full financial picture in a perfect world, but it doesn’t have to be immediate. And I think people just jump into the idea that I have to get this. 

If I was switching jobs…

I would be looking around at rentals, whether it’s condos, homes, apartments, whatever your situation is that you can have. And again, I don’t know how realistic it is, but in this seat on this side of the table, I would bring that then to my upcoming church that I’m working on and saying, “In order to be able to live here, we have to be able to make rent. We have to be able to have this.” I mean, I think there are this level of, we have to live somewhere.

Say, “Hey, this is where we were financially before this move. And now that a housing expense is now included, this is a realistic thing.” In my opinion, you’re not being high maintenance in that. You’re just surviving. You want a place to live which has to be a part of this plan. And in order to do that, what does that look like for you and your family? And let that be a conversation point back and forth. That’s not unreasonable to ask that or to talk through that.

So there has to be decisions that we have the free will to make in our life and with our life and our family that again, I think are reasonable and not being on this level of “Oh, I don’t depend on God for everything,” or it’s not that I’m not leaning on Him. It’s that I’m being wise with what He’s given me. He’s given a heart, he’s given me a mind, and I’m going to make wise decisions in this, in what He’s calling me to.

So yeah, if you are moving to LA from Little Rock and going to a church in LA and you want to buy a home, it’s probably not realistic. That’s probably not what’s going to happen. So I think that reality is true for anyone, regardless of sphere of career or job or ministry. And I want people to look at that and to know, okay, if this is what we’re choosing to walk into, we’re going to choose that ’cause we really do believe that this is where God’s calling us. But it may look different than what you think.

Host Janet:

Another issue that I think we face probably more than other professions is job insecurity. It’s a big deal in ministry because I don’t know if you know this about church people, but sometimes, it doesn’t take a whole lot to upset them. And their natural reaction is, “Well, let’s get rid of him and find somebody else.” So a lot of jobs end unexpectedly, prematurely, in a hostile type, have a very difficult ugly end.

And when your budget is already tight and your income is less maybe than you want it to be, how do we plan adequately for times … I mean, we have faced unexpected unemployment, and praise the Lord, we had an emergency fund. And you don’t ever want to have to use it, but you sure want it when you need it. 

 

How can ministers adequately prepare for seasons of unexpected unemployment when our money’s already stretched pretty thin?

Rachel Cruze:

I mean, the first place is exactly what you said, is I would find any amount of margin and build up an emergency fund. That would be the first thing that I do. Because like you said, if something happens, then you’re able to fall back onto that, and that can float you for a month, two months, three months. 

So that’s where I would start, is that, and then if you find yourself in that position that it’s happened, there is this point of any job is a job. And for a season, there may be a time that you’re not back in ministry, because there’s a bridge, there’s something, a season that is in between, but you have to make money. And again, I say this to even someone on the Ramsey Show that calls in and they’ve been working somewhere and they got fired and they’re like, “Well, what do I do? I need a job in the same industry.” No, you need a job today, because your mortgage is due and you don’t have money saved. So you got to go to Target, whatever it is, you’ve got to have some level of income. And again, it may not be the job that you want long-term, but it’s a job. So if that has to be the bridge for a season, then I’m all about that. I’m like, that is what you have to do in that sense. 

But I think in a wise lens, to be able to look through and say, “Okay, we have money saved. We have money set aside, which is that emergency fund.” And I would work towards that because like you said, you can make some lady mad, and then the next day, you get called in. It’s pretty wild, but that’s how fluid it is so sadly in the church. But yeah, to be able to say that you have that level of security of that emergency fund, I think is important.

Janet:

From a pastor’s family perspective, how do we raise our children in a household where there’s not a whole lot of money for extras, without flying the flag of, “We’re ministry family, so we sacrifice and it’s always worth it.” When to a kid who doesn’t get the same kind of toys that his friends do, that’s meaningless. And on the other side, you don’t want them to be resentful, because their parents are ministry. How do you have those conversations with your children when money’s really tight, and they’re old enough to understand what that means?

 

What are some ways that we can help our children understand that God gives us all different amounts and this is what He’s given us?

Rachel Cruze:

I always go back to, and I heard this years ago, and now as a mom with little ones, I think it is so true. I think yes, we all want actual things. I mean, even as adults, it’s like, “Yeah, we want a new car. We want that purse.” Whatever it is, we want things. And so our kids, they’re going to have that too. And as a parent, what I’ve realized is that the stuff that money can’t buy are the things in life that I value so much, which is relationships, my faith, my passion for my job and my career. These things, you can’t buy these things. 

And for me, that’s where I have found the most joy, the most satisfaction in our world today. So pivoting that to my kids to say we’re all going to want stuff, and I get that you want that. So the idea that you want something, to me, there’s not necessarily a level of wrong. 

But what ends up happening is when that spirit changes to jealousy or envy, I want to refocus. I’m saying this to myself about myself, refocus to, “Hey, what are the things that money can’t buy and where can we put our time and our energy on that?” Because with kids, so much of what they want is mom and dad. They want us.

We’re doing a digital detox at our church right now during this month. And I’m like, “How many times have my kids just seen the top of my head with me just looking down on my phone?” I mean, there are so many distractions that we have in our life, and I think for our kids, they long for a relationship with us. They long to know that we see them. They long to spend time together. 

And it’s silly stuff!

We took our kids to a parking lot and they rode bikes. We did it for two hours, and they still talk about it. It was back at Thanksgiving. And I’m like just riding bikes around an empty parking lot, they still talk about it. But that goes back to the stuff that money can’t buy is what brings us so much satisfaction. So if there are ideas or places you can take them, a hike or whatever the thing is that you can do as a family, that reinvigorates that idea of stuff is not bad. We’re not going to just shame them, “You shouldn’t care what they have.” I get that, I feel that sometimes. So I think there’s a level of affirming, yeah, I mean, we’re human. We’re all human here, but where do we want to put our time and our energy? And what’s realistic for our family in this season to do that?

And then I think number two is the example, and I really believe this, and I’m seeing this so much with my own kids, is what we live out, what Winston, my husband and I, what we live out, what we value, how we live our lives, that is mirrored so much in my kids and what they believe and how they believe life should be lived. When we’re kind to people, when we are giving. When I don’t go in Amazon every single day and an Amazon box shows up, which happens in seasons. When I model this other life for them of contentment and generosity and kindness to people and to the waiter or the Sonic guy. Let’s live these principles out in my own life and in my husband’s life, and let them start to experience some of that as well. I think that example in their baseline for what’s normal and what should be expected is there.

Don’t make the budget the bad guy, but say, ‘Hey, we’ve planned for our money and for right now, this is the truth of where it is. So let’s figure out a way maybe to save for it, maybe delay some of that gratification.” It’s not a no forever and ever, but maybe we make a plan and say, “Okay, let’s see if we can save, or maybe you can do some babysitting here or there.” Whatever the thing is that we can work towards it, I think is another great avenue too.

 

Where would you recommend that people start if they want to develop some smarter money strategies for their family?

Rachel Cruze:

Yes. Yeah, I think the podcast or YouTube is a great place just to have on in the background. If you’re going to be listening to something, it’s a good means to get some questions answered of people calling in. The Ramsey Show is the big one, so I’d probably recommend that one for now. I have a podcast once a week that comes out, and I just give some tips on everything from grocery shopping to how to pay off your mortgage faster. I mean, it’s all kind of more tip-based. So that’s The Rachel Cruze Show, so you can check that out. But honestly, I would just even go to ramseysolutions.com, and we have a great Get Started Guide to help people if you’re starting from the very beginning, because we have the Seven Baby Steps. And it’s our step-by-step process, our guide to help you get in control of your money. And again, really regardless of how you’re making your money, but it really is, it’s biblically-based, common sense, and the Baby Steps is where I would start. 

And then we have a budgeting app called EveryDollar, and there’s a free version in the app store. So even download that and start your first budget, and start working your way in that. That’s a great foundational first step is the budget.

I just want to encourage all of the wives listening. I mean, I know it’s a hard thing to be in ministry, like what we were saying earlier, I’m like, people are just so critical. And sadly, I hate that the church has … So at times, that’s the thing that can bubble up. So just hear from somebody that goes to her local church with her family, that we so appreciate the work that you’re choosing to do. You’re being obedient to the calling in your life, and that comes with sacrifice. But also know that that work is helping so many people. As a wife of a pastor, whether you’re doing ministry side by side with your husband or maybe not, you are such a support system to him as well. And you have the ability to even take some of this and say, “Hey, if we could start some new habits in our household, what does this look like?” ‘Cause it takes two to be a great team. And so there’s a lot of strength that a lot of pastors’ wives have, and so I just really commend the role that you guys play in life. It’s a big one, it really is.

If you’d like to learn how to be smarter with your money, click HERE for Rachel Cruze’s podcast and her other resources.

Do you have a pastor’s wife friend who could use some of these tips we talked about today? Why don’t you tell her about this episode of Married to the Ministry? All of us need wisdom on managing well whatGod gives us. Next time I’ll be sharing some money-saving hacks we’ve learned over the years, so I hope you’ll join me again soon! Until then, let’s keep loving Jesus, loving our husbands, and loving our people