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Discipleship Meets Financial Education: An Interview with Jerilyn Sanders

Jerilyn Sanders is the Director of US Training at the Chalmers Center. Her work combines two things: her love for God’s people and her passion for education that empowers the disenfranchised. In this role, Sanders and her team created Faith & Finances, a financial education curriculum that allows the church to minister holistically in its own community. Read the following Q&A to learn more about her work.

How did you become passionate about equipping the church to walk with people who are poor?

It seems that many things in my life have led me to this, from being a pastor’s kid in a blue-collar rural community to my interests in cross-cultural understanding to my experiences with alternative education methods with inner-city kids and families. The Church has always been intertwined in my personal and professional lives.

What led you and your team to create Faith & Finances?

The Chalmers Center found a gap in financial education materials, so we sought to fill it. The Faith & Finances class is both designed for the realities of low- to moderate-income individuals and approaches financial concepts from a Christian worldview. Most other materials out there tend to address one need or the other, but not both.

We also use a non-traditional format that is less about the transfer of information and more about hands-on practicality and interaction that opens the door to a target group that might be hesitant. I often say that Faith & Finances is a money management course for people who would never seek one out because they think this topic is only for rich people.

In the stories you are hearing from facilitators, what seems to be unique about Faith & Finance’s role and impact in the work of grassroots churches and ministries?

More than just teaching financial skills, we seek to train facilitators with everything they need to start a ministry. We look at the challenges of their target group, how to connect the class with a larger, ongoing strategy of the local church, and how to sustain the relationships that are started. Faith & Finances helps deal not only with outward behaviors, but the root causes of all our poverty. This is where discipleship and transformation happen.

Yes, we want Faith & Finances to help build money management skills and reduce vulnerability for the poor. But we also want it to help the Church develop skills at building relationships and learning from others across socioeconomic classes.

What is one of your favorite moments from the past two years of launching Faith & Finances?

Wow, we hear so many great stories from our sites! Participants have paid off payday loans, and in some cases even joined churches because they felt so embraced by the relational nature of the class. Immigrant parents reported they had not overspent at Christmas because the class helped them talk to their children about financial goals and saving. Inmates in a county jail quit smoking in order to save up money for a nest egg when they got out.

Several individual stories also stand out, like the young single mother who learned to read the fine print and get good deals as she rented her first apartment. A man regained his hope and not only got his money in order, but also started making other healthy lifestyle choices and lost weight. A young woman said she was released from her shame with the knowledge that while she is responsible for her finances, she is not defined by them.

We are seeing improbable friendships forming between people from “different sides of the tracks.” We are seeing people who thought they were the “helpers” say they learned more from the class than they contributed.

How can we best pray for the churches implementing Faith & Finances in their own communities? How can we best pray for your team as you seek to serve them well?

Please pray for facilitators to have the creativity, perseverance, resources, and help they need to get started and keep going. Pray for our new bilingual facilitators who are just starting to lead classes in Spanish-speaking communities. And pray for God to give us His wisdom and discernment to support our partners well as we seek to have broader impact across the US.

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