The statistics are scary.
The average college student graduates with student loan debt of around $27,000. That's just the average, meaning some students leave school with $50,000, $75,000 and even $100,000 of debt.
Currently there is more than $1 trillion in total outstanding student loan debt in the United States. Yes, we officially have a student loan crisis. On top of that, student loans have passed credit cards in total debt owed.
The average 22-year-old is stepping out into the "real world" for the first time nearly $30,000 in the hole. Instead of getting a jump-start on life, they've got an anchor tied to their feet. Soon after, most of these students will probably marry someone with their own student loan problems and the pile of debt gets even higher.
So how did this happen? As I've traveled across the country, one of the things I hear most often from parents is this: "I wish I heard this stuff when I was younger."
That's my mission: I want to teach kids, college students and young adults about the basics of money management so they don't grow into the adult asking, "What happened?" Youth need to know why debt is bad, how important budgeting is and how to balance their checking account online.
If you're a youth minister, teaching pastor or church administrator, you're in a position of incredible influence. You have the opportunity to partner with parents in teaching basic financial principles that can change the lives of the youth in your church.
Howard Dayton from Compass, a Florida-based financial ministry, notes that the Bible has 2,350 verses that deal with money and possessions. And Jesus talked about those topics more than love, heaven and hell combined.
How you manage money isn't a salvation issue, but it's clearly an important topic if the Bible talks about it so much.
As a refresher, here are a few examples:
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" (Prov. 22:7).
"For who among you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost to see whether he has resources to complete it? Otherwise, perhaps, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to complete it, all who see it will begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to complete it.' " (Luke 14:28-30).
"There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it" (Prov. 21:20).
The Bible even talks about co-signing. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) puts it this way: "It's stupid to guarantee someone else's loan" (Prov. 17:18).
As a church leader, you can step in and make a major difference. So, what should you teach? When it comes to teaching kids and youth about money, there are three main categories: giving, saving and spending.
One of the most important things you can do with your money is give, so give off the top. Before you do anything else, give 10 percent to a church or a charity you believe in.
Proverbs 3:9 says to "Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase" (MEV). That means, when you get your paycheck, the first thing you should be doing is giving some of it away.
Why? Something about giving changes a person's spirit, and it's best to start young. The young person who gives will begin to see life differently, and it doesn't just happen automatically. It happens when giving becomes a habit, and that means building giving into a money plan (aka budget).
As you teach your youth, remind that them that if they're giving to a church, they should know that God doesn't need their money. He owns it all. As Psalm 50:10 says, "For every wild animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." It's all His. It's just our responsibility to manage the things He's given us, and one of the best ways to do that is by helping others.
Make a point to talk with your youth about saving. You're never too young to learn the basics of saving. When you're young, it doesn't have to be complicated. For a teenager, just a simple savings account will do. This money should be used for small emergencies and purchases.
The important thing is that they're learning why saving matters. Saving teaches patience, and don't we all know that kids aren't naturally patient!
When I was a teenager, my dad told me he would match whatever I could save up for my first car. I watched him do the same thing with my older sister, so I knew he wasn't kidding.
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