By Moriah Ward
After Matt and Sarah Gill attended Financial Peace University, hosted by the Adventist Center of Influence in Reno, they were inspired to bring the program to their home church. When Sarah approached the board of the Fallon church to seek support for the class, the church agreed to host the class, as well as sponsor 15 memberships to ease the financial burden for people who wanted to attend.
Encouraged by the response from the church board, Sarah extended an invitation, via Fallon church’s informational Facebook page, to anyone in town who would like to learn more about financial freedom. One family in town had taken the class previously; they’d been so blessed by it that they requested to sponsor a membership to bless someone else with what they had learned. Four people from the community signed up for the class and attended faithfully almost every week.
Jose Kary, head elder of the Fallon church, heard about Financial Peace University at the board meeting, so he and his wife, Claritza, were among the first to sign up. After the class was finished, Jose said, “The Financial Peace University class was very helpful for my wife and me. I wish we had known about this savings system when we first got married. We would be living debt free, with a lot of savings in the bank right now. At the moment we are on baby step one, but we are reducing our debt very aggressively. This class has definitely been a blessing for us.”
When Sarah signed up to be a facilitator, the counselor from Financial Peace University estimated that with a church membership the size of Fallon’s, the class would likely have four to eight participants. The class ended up having 22 people attend nearly every week.
Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University presents guidelines broken down into seven baby steps:
1. Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.
2. Pay off all non-mortgage debt.
3. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
4. Invest 15% of your household income in retirement.
5. Save for your children’s college fund.
6. Pay off your home early.
7. Build wealth and give generously.
Ramsey uses the analogy of a gazelle running from a lion to illustrate the intensity with which people should be running from debt—like it is life or death!
The second week of the class, participants were asked to provide a financial snapshot: Non-mortgage debt, credit card accounts, and liquid cash available. Then, throughout the 10 weeks of the class, people worked with “gazelle-like intensity” to save money and pay off debt. In less than two months, the 22 people, representing 17 households, paid off $21,491 of debt, saved $34,824, and paid off and closed 18 credit card accounts!
Matt and Sarah loved facilitating the class and can’t wait to do it again. Sarah said, “Taking Financial Peace University was life changing for us. Not only in the way we dealt with our money, but in opening up conversations between Matt and me about money and our dreams that helped to strengthen our marriage in a very special way. We wanted to share that blessing with others, and we were blown away by all the amazing people that attended our class. Each one brought a unique perspective to our discussions, and we are so proud of everything everyone accomplished during this class.”
The final baby step is “Build wealth and give generously.” The goal of the class is to teach people to be responsible with God’s money to the point that their own cup runs over and they share God’s blessings with those around them.
This class ended mere days before the world came to a halt in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Graduates of the class are entering this challenge with less debt and more savings to carry them through, along with a greater desire to reach out and help others. While everyone is self-isolating, Roxann Hamilton, a church member in Fallon as well as a Financial Peace University participant, is helping her elderly friends and neighbors. “I’ve been checking on people, taking them food, and picking up prescriptions. The biggest thing is praying for and encouraging people. These are unprecedented times, but we serve a big God!”
It’s reassuring to know that the God we serve not only owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” but is also the Great Healer. Even in these uncertain times, we can trust our God with absolutely everything—our health, our finances, our families, and our future.