Thinking about what to teach and when to teach it isn’t the easiest thing to do in any ministry, but college-age ministry seems even more complex. The key to finding the right subject is understanding the issues people in our ministry are struggling with, and then hitting those head on—without sugar coating anything.
If there is ever a time people get into financial trouble, it’s during the college-age years. The desire for immediate pleasure often overpowers the little discipline they have, and often leads to future pain and struggle. Poor financial decisions made between the ages of 18-25 don’t usually have to be paid for until later—which is what gets them into trouble. That’s why it is so key to talk to young adults about finances.
In creating a series for discussion on money, you need to hit this topic directly and boldly. Address stewardship from a biblical perspective and challenge college-age people to develop discipline in this area. Setting aside one week for discussion won’t do it, this needs to be an entire series. So in this article I will give you some thoughts on how to make that happen.
A Message to Teach
Teaching the Parable of the Talents is a great passage to launch weeks (literally) of discussion because it hits tensions that we all face when it comes to money. The master gives a man 1 talent, another two, and yet another five. We know the one with five brought back ten, the one given two talents brought back four, and the man given one talent, after burying it, brought that exact one back to the master.
There are two major points to make sure you bring out in this text. First, the guy who brings back ten talents was the one honored. Typically we take this passage COMPLETELY out of context, suggesting that this gives us freedom to invest our money with hopes of multiplying it for ourselves. The man in this passage, however, didn’t keep anything for himself! He multiplied it, and gave it ALL back to the master.
Too often, we go to this passage and say, “We have to be good stewards” only to justify hoarding money for ourselves. The pursuit of a career path for college-age people is little more than seeking to fulfill a dream of financial freedom. The reason college educations are obtained is so more money can be made. But, for who? They have to be challenged on whether or not they are giving it all to the master now, and if not, they most likely won’t later—even though they say they will.
Secondly, we have to bring out the fact that the guy with one talent was the one shamed and deemed unfaithful. He brought back exactly what he was given. What about today? The reality is that if the master came back today most college-age people wouldn’t even have what was given to them—they would be bringing the master back a bill! The guy in this passage didn’t have any debt, he actually brought back something, but he was still viewed as unfaithful. What would the Master say to those who spend much more than they’re given?
These points hit all of us, but can really hit home for college-age people (especially those who are going into debt for school). But one thing is certain: you’re going to initiate great discussion. Be prepared for your students to ask you how you spend and use your money for the Master. Be prepared to open up your bank account! Be prepared to answer them when they ask you if they should even have a savings account or stocks/bonds. Be prepared for them to ask you if you’re saying they shouldn’t have school debt. Trust me, many questions will come out of this message. This one message could ignite your group into months of discussion!
One word of caution—make sure you respond biblically. Our American mindset can easily take over, rationalizing away a biblical perspective on finances.
Opening the can of worms on this issue is a lot of fun. Just remember—worms live in dirt. This is a dirty topic to cover, but it’s one we must talk about with college-age people.
Tips to teaching this subject:
- Make sure you’re being faithful with your finances, first! Make sure your finances are managed and are prioritized according to this passage.
- Have people in financial problems come in and share the pain they’ve faced because of their poor decisions.
- Share about how you manage your own finances, how you think about money, and how you do a personal budget.