Becoming wiser stewards

At this Minneapolis church, spiritual health and financial literacy go hand in hand

Tim and Jessica Jackson, pastors of Impact Living Christian Center in Minneapolis

At Impact Living Christian Center in Minneapolis, financial literacy is taught as a fundamental part of spiritual growth. "We're problem-solvers and institution builders," says Tim Jackson, who leads the church community with his wife, Jessica. For the Jacksons, that means helping their church's members learn how to better manage their money.

The co-pastors, who founded the Impact community in 2005, believe spiritual health and financial wisdom are interwoven. As Tim observes, humanity's stewardship of God's creation and his gifts is one of the overarching themes of the Bible, beginning with the Garden of Eden and expressed also in Christ's teachings. (Think of the emphasis on alms-giving and the parable of the talents.) The spiritual importance of generosity winds through those lessons. As Tim summarizes, "We should live with less and give more."

Journey to literacy

Tim is generous in sharing his own experience in learning how to manage one's money. Before becoming a pastor, he worked in the printing industry. But despite his business experience and his mother's household management acumen, he says, "I was financially illiterate."

His own journey to financial stability and stewardship "has been rough," Tim acknowledges. But with years of financial education and encouragement from Jessica, his financial situation has steadily improved. "In the last 15 to 18 years, my credit has gone from the low 400s to over 800," he says. (A key metric of success that Impact imparts to its parishioners is achieving a credit score of 700 or higher.)

"People don't understand the value of credit, and the importance of living within your means and paying your bills on time. And that's half the battle." – Pastor Tim Jackson

Tim freely shares his experience because it's a story that many in his faith community can relate to. "People don't understand the value of credit, and the importance of living within your means and paying your bills on time," he says. "And that's half the battle."

Education is key

Among the challenges Impact addresses is eradicating generational poverty through education. Impact has adapted a program called Banking on Our Future. The curriculum was developed by Operation HOPE, a nonprofit that focuses on financial literacy and entrepreneurship in communities underserved by banks and other financial resources.

Tamba Johnson, a Thrivent Financial professional based in Minneapolis, has led an educational workshop, Financial Planning Basics, with the Impact community. He describes the Jacksons' financial literacy mission as "a much-needed thing. A lot of times, people don't have access to the information they need to succeed."

And "being African American myself, I see the disparities," Tamba says. When it comes to overcoming those disparities, "Tim and Jessica have spearheaded the charge, and that's what inspires me."

Financial stability, spiritual health

As Tim notes, financial literacy "is a process, especially when you're dealing with a community that is underserved and underbanked and has all kinds of challenges."

Still, Tim says, "we see the changes. They're small, but we're moving in the right direction. Our people are happier, they're finding fulfillment." They're less stressed, and much less fearful of answering the phone and hearing a collector's voice. "I can't measure it in dollars," Tim adds. "But our people are becoming healthier – financially, mentally and spiritually."

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