Constant Faith

I recently had the privilege of speaking on Daniel & The Lion’s Den. I’m really intrigued by Daniel. Most of the stories in the Old Testament are stories of redemption. Moses killed some people; then he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. David slept with Bathsheba, but then he repented and was known as a man after God’s own heart. Jonah ran from God, but eventually after spending three days in the belly of a fish, he turned around and did the right thing. You get the idea.

ConstantFaith

Daniel’s story doesn’t read like that. By the time Chapter 6 rolls around, Daniel has led a faith-filled life and finds himself second in charge of the entire kingdom, just behind King Darius. Daniel is a story of consistency. We never see his faith waiver. In Daniel Chapter 6, he’s described as faithful, responsible, and trustworthy.

But the most amazing part of Daniel’s story to me, isn’t found in the lion’s den. It’s found in his reaction to the king’s decree. King Darius orders a decree that no one can pray to anyone except him for the next 30 days. Here is Daniel’s response,

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Daniel 6:10

Daniel didn’t post a complaint on Facebook. He didn’t tweet about how unfair the new law was. He didn’t go house to house with a petition for the law to be repealed. He just did what he had always done. He prayed and then trusted God with the result.

I think many of us who call ourselves Christ followers would do well to follow his example.

In what ways are you living a life of constant faith? How can you get better?

Some Churches Don’t Want Growth

I had a pastor walk into my office this week that was broken. In three hours he would resign from the church he had poured his life into over the past five years.

ChurchDontWantGrowth

He wouldn’t be resigning because of moral failure. His love for his wife, family, and community was evident to anyone who came in contact with him. He wouldn’t be resigning because of poor performance. The church attendance had grown by over twenty percent under his care. He wouldn’t be resigning to take a new position elsewhere. He had little idea as to where he would go from here.

He was resigning because the church refused to change.

Sure, they had made some changes along the way. They had made some concessions to the worship style they preferred. They had tried small groups but chose to keep Sunday School classes. They even had done some remodeling and updating to the church.

Everything seemed to be going well. They weren’t Elevation Church, but they were making progress.

Then one day it all fell apart.

Some churches will only budge so far before they decide to dig in their heels. For this church, accountability and standards for their leadership team was the breaking point. For other churches, it’s the style of music or Sunday School or the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.

The fact is many churches have no interest in change because they have no interest in growing. They would rather have the familiar than take a chance on God doing something extraordinary. They would rather choose comfort over conversion. Not realizing the entire time, they’re choosing death over life.

Yet, so many pastors are stuck in these types of churches, and they feel like they’re running out of options.

If this is you, let me tell you what your options are:

  1. Start Over – Resign. Go somewhere else. Plant a church. Don’t waste the calling God has placed on your life in a church that refuses to allow you to act on that calling. Don’t waste your passion. Don’t put your wife and family through it. Don’t waste what God has given you.

Or

  1. Bury Your Heart – Forget about your passions. Forget about your calling. Give up on making a difference. Forget about evangelism. Say things like “We’re not growing in number, but we’re growing disciples.” Even though you know at the forefront of being a disciple is the desire to invite others into a relationship with Jesus. Tell yourself whatever it takes to bury the desire within you to see people far from God fall in love with Jesus.

The choice is up to you.

Do you work at a church that refuses to change? What’s keeping you there?

Five Tips to Create Better Sermons

Most pastors preach on average forty to fifty times a year. Over a twenty-year career, it’s not unheard of for a pastor to preach over one thousand sermons. To put that into perspective the longest running show on television, The Simpsons, has broadcast 583 episodes over the past 26 years and has used 108 different writers to do it.

CreateBetterSermons

The amount of content a pastor is asked to create is astronomical, over a thousand sermons in a twenty-year career, and we haven’t even factored in pastors who preach a different message on Sunday nights and/or Wednesdays.

It’s easy to see how one could quickly get overwhelmed.

The simple solution is to commit to preaching less. Find someone to fill in. The church will survive without you for a Sunday, I promise. I’d limit yourself to preaching less than 45 weekends a year, forty if your preaching multiple services.

Preaching less will help, but you still need to create forty plus sermons a year that connect with your audience. This is no easy task. So let me offer a few suggestions to help.

  1. Fill the Well

Too many pastors get in the habit of only reading the Bible for sermon preparation and not reading the Bible for personal transformation. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t let sermon prep take the place of your personal time with God. Commit time each day to digging into God’s word. Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting your first love.

  1. Capture Ideas

In order to capture ideas, you need to find ideas. Read a book, read a blog, listen to a podcast, and listen to other preachers. The options are endless. Then jot these ideas down. You can use the old school way and just get a notebook, or I suggest using an app like Evernote. Pastor Ron Edmonson has created an Ebook called “Evernote for Pastors” that is an excellent resource.

  1. Write in Batches

I wrote an earlier post talking about why I believe sermon series are better than stand alone sermons. A great thing about series is you can write your sermons in batches. That means when you’re writing, you’re not just thinking about one sermon, but you’re planning and outlining multiple sermons at the same time. This helps you write multiple sermons in less time.

  1. Get Feedback

Too many pastors never ask for feedback. I think it’s a good idea not just to get feedback after you preach, but get feedback on your sermon before you preach. Bounce ideas off your staff, your friends, and your spouse. Each individual will have unique perspectives and ideas that can help shape and mold your sermon.

  1. Use a Calendar

I highly recommend using a preaching calendar. Jeff Henderson does a great job of showing you how to set one up in this video. When you plan out your preaching in advance, you eliminate those weeks when you’re in panic because you have no idea what you’re doing on Sunday.

Creating sermons can be hard. Hopefully, these tips will make it a little easier.

I’d love to hear your tips. Please share them in the comments below.

For more tips subscribe to the blog and I’ll send you my new Ebook “8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching”.

Budgeting Made Simple

The Gotta, Outta, Nada System

According to a 2015 CNBC article most Americans are still struggling to make ends meet financially. I can only imagine the case is worse for families in small towns, and for many pastors who serve in these communities.

budgeting-corkboard

When it comes to managing finances, the answer seems simple. Spend less than you make.

As easy as this sounds, few people can seem to get it right. For the ones who do, tremendous benefits can be had.

But where do you start, and how do you prioritize?

I like to think about it in terms of gotta, outta, and nada.

There are some things that I gotta pay. There’s no wiggle room, no getting it around it. These are top priority.

There are also things I outta pay. Most of the time these are going to get paid, but if something comes up, I can cut these out of the budget with little consequence.

The rest are nadas. Things that are nada necessity. We may think we need to have cable tv, but in reality we could easily do without it.

To give you a better idea I’ve listed my gotta, outta, nadas below.

Gotta

Tithe – People will have different opinions on this, but for me, tithing is something I gotta do. God has blessed me, so I can bless others. The church gives me the greatest opportunity to do this.

Pay Rent/Mortgage – The majority of us have one or the other. If we don’t pay it, we lose our home. This has to be at the top of the gotta list.

Have Insurance – Insurance has become a gotta. Home, automobile, and health.

Pay Utilities – Electric, water, gas, etc.

Eat Something – Groceries, kids’ lunches, we all gotta eat.

Wear Clothes – Clothes and shoes wear out, especially when you have children.

Put Gas in the Car – Very few of us live in an area that we can get away without having a vehicle. If you have a vehicle, you’re gonna have to put gas in it.

Pay on Debt – Car payments, student loans, credit cards.

Outta

Give Gifts – Christmas, birthdays, weddings. This seems to be the budget category that keeps increasing for me.

Have a Telephone – Contrary to popular opinion, a telephone is not a gotta. People got by long before phones were invented, but by this point you outta have one.

Have Life Insurance – I know way too many families financially devastated because someone died unexpectedly that didn’t have an insurance policy. You should have at least enough for funeral expenses.

Maintain House/Car – Every home and car is going to need repairs and maintenance. You outta maintain them.

Go on a Date – If you’re married, you need to continue dating your spouse. Plan at least one night a month to go on date, more if you can afford it.

Take a Vacation – I may be a bit biased here. I love traveling, so for me, this is something you outta do. In reality, this probably should be a nada.

Put Money into Savings – One of the hardest things for me to do is save. I outta do it, but I don’t do it enough.

Nada Necessity

Eating Out – This is the budget killer in my house. Fast food is easy, but it’s not cheap. And it’s nada necessity.

Hobbies – Golf, fishing, crafts, whatever your hobby is, it’s nada necessity, and chances are it’s killing your budget.

Buying New Things – The only thing you need to buy new is underwear. Every thing else is negotiable, and chances are you’re much better off buying used.

Buying Name Brand – Same as buying new, it’s nada necessity. Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t work if you go broke in the process.

Having Internet – I didn’t get internet at my house until I started this blog. Does not having internet stink? Yes. But for most people it’s nada necessity.

Having Cable/Satellite TV – Same as the internet. Just because everyone else has it, doesn’t make it a necessity. Most people could save significant dollars by cancelling TV services and getting Netflix or something similar.

Addictions – For some people it’s coffee, for others it may be cigarettes. In many cases your addictions not only kill your budget, they’re also killing you. Give them up.

I know this isn’t a perfect system, but for those who are looking to better manage their money I hope it is a help to you.

If you like the Gotta, Outta, Nada system I’ve developed an Excel spreadsheet complete with all the formulas you need to make it work for you. Leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to send it to you absolutely free.

Communication in Leadership

Good leadership is essential to the success of your church. When frustrations develop in leadership, you can almost always trace it back to a break down in communication. For as good as we may be at speaking on a stage, it seems that many leaders struggle at communicating off the stage.

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For this reason we sat down as a team and developed clear expectations for two of the most important roles in our organization: Team Leaders and Senior Team Leaders.

Team Leaders in our church are responsible for overseeing ministries and volunteers for a specific service. For example, a First Service Nursery Team Leader would be responsible for overseeing the success of the nursery during the first service. A Second Service Parking Team Leader would be responsible for overseeing the success of the parking ministry during second service. You get the picture.

So, we ask our Team Leaders to do three things. If they do these three things listed below, we consider that a success.

Team Leader

  1. Show Up
  • Be passionate.
  • Be on time.
  • Be a friend.
  • Be an example.
  1. Send Weekly Reminders
  • Create a schedule.
  • Gather contact info for each volunteer.
  • Set aside a time each week to remind those scheduled to serve that weekend.
  1. Care For and Encourage Your Team
  • Pray for your leaders and your volunteers.
  • Send weekly encouragement through the use of scriptures, devotionals, and stories.
  • Notice who is missing and check up on them.

Now, we expect more out of our Senior Team Leaders because they are responsible for the success of entire ministries. They are not just responsible for one service; they are responsible for every service.

So, the Senior Team Leader of the greeting ministry will work alongside the team leaders to make sure the ministry is successful.

Senior Team Leaders are expected to do the same three things as Team Leaders, as well as the following.

Senior Team Leader

  1. Recruit Volunteers for Your Team
  • The most effective way to get someone plugged in is through a personal invite.
  • Recruit volunteers with vision, not guilt.
  1. Schedule Your Volunteers to Serve
  • It is your responsibility to schedule volunteers to serve.
  • If a volunteer is going to be miss or be late, it is your responsibility to cover or replace them with another volunteer.
  1. Coach and Train Your Team
  • Share articles, emails, and personal experiences that demonstrate what your ministry should look like.
  • Have a training process that makes your volunteers feel confident and comfortable to perform their role successfully.
  • Evaluate volunteer performance as it happens, and coach as needed.
  1. Cast Vision to Your Team
  • Cast the church’s vision and values, as well as your ministry vision, to your team on a consistent basis.
  • Where there is no vision people perish, but when people embrace the vision people will flourish.
  • Casting vision is simply communicating the vision in a way that others make your vision their own.

My church now has two services on Sunday mornings, and we ask our Senior Team Leaders to make it a priority to be there for every service. Not all of them do that, but we find that the ones who do are generally more successful in their ministry.

Now, I realize your church may not have multiple services, and this system may not work for you. That’s ok. I just wanted to give you an idea that you can take and customize to fit your own needs. I hope this helps.

Do you and your team struggle to communicate effectively? How do you make sure everyone is on the same page?

The Good Samaritan

Great change always comes at great risk. This was something that Martin Luther King Jr. knew all too well. On the night before Dr. King was murdered, he preached a sermon called “I See the Promised Land.” In his speech, he expounds upon the Parable of the Good Samaritan and shares a unique perspective as to why the priest and Levite may have passed the man by.

MLK

“I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that these men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on the road, I said to my wife, I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable. It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the Bloody Pass. And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, if I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Many of you pastor or serve in a church where you know change is needed. You know that your church doesn’t appeal to those who don’t know Christ. Yet, you’re afraid to act because you’re asking the question, “What will happen to me? What if they don’t want change? What if they vote me out?”

I think its time we reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help, if I do not lead the change, what will happen to them? What will happen to those who don’t know Christ?”

The time to act is now. Stop living in fear of what might happen to you, and start leading the charge to save those around you.

Dr. King concluded his sermon with this: “I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

What change are you currently implementing in your church? What’s holding you back?

Financial Lessons that Lead to God’s Blessings

No One on the Internet is Giving You Money!

Last month Mark Zuckerberg announced he would give away 99% of his wealth, which was around 4.5 billion dollars give or take a few million. Shortly after that this post started popping up on Facebook that said He would give away 4.5 million to one hundred random people on Facebook. All you had to do to have a chance to win was copy and paste this text to your wall.

zuckerberg-giveaway-hoax

Millions of people did this. There’s a good chance some of you reading right now did this, and it ended up  being just a hoax.

Here’s what aggravated me about the whole situation. I saw way too many Christians copying and pasting in hopes of winning millions. They had no reason to believe it was real, they didn’t check the source, yet they were still willing to post in hopes that Mark Zuckerberg would bless them.

Here’s some advice, instead of putting your hopes in someone you don’t even know, try putting your hopes in Jesus. You’re trusting Him to get you to Heaven aren’t you? Why not trust what He says about your finances?

Three financial lessons that lead to God’s blessings.

  1. Be a Good Steward – God blesses those who use what He’s given them wisely (Matthew 25:14-29). Everything we have is because of God. It’s all His. He just loans it to us for a short time. We can’t take it with us when we die. Enjoy what God’s given you, but always be generous.
  1. You Reap what You Sow – Generosity will always reap a blessing. If you’re not feeling blessed, could it be because you haven’t been generous? What does a farmer do when he has a barren field? He doesn’t complain about it. He doesn’t even pray about it. He just goes out and starts planting seeds, because nothing is going to happen until a seed is planted. Here’s the great thing about planting seeds, you always get back more than you put in. Just like Proverbs 11:24 says, “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.”
  1. Put God First – If you’re looking for a blessing, God tells us in Malachi how we can get one. It starts with putting God first in your finances. He says if you’ll do that, He’ll pour out a blessing on you so great you won’t have enough room to take it in. He even goes so far as to say, “Put me to the test!” Whatever you want God to bless, you have to put him first in. So if you want God to bless your finances, you have to put him first in your money.

Now, before I get mistaken for a prosperity preacher, let me clarify a few things.

I’m not saying that you should give financially in order to receive a bigger financial blessing. You should give because you want to be obedient to God and you want to see His kingdom grow. Financial blessings may come, and they may not. God may choose to bless you in different ways.

Regardless, if you want the blessings of God, I believe you’ll have a better chance of finding them when you choose to be generous with what God has given you.

Why not take God up on his offer? Put Him to the test, and see what happens.

How have you seen God bless you in response to your generosity? Why is it so hard for us to give God control of our finances? Let me know in the comments below.

Levels of Leadership

Setting Up a Leadership Pipeline

When small groups don’t get off the ground, volunteers begin to quit, and ministries fall apart, it almost always can be traced back to the leader. John Maxwell was right when he said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Leadership Pipeline

Leadership is so crucial to the success of your church, yet it’s sometimes hard for people to grasp, especially within a rural setting. People who attend small town churches are often fearful of the word “leader” because they believe it elevates certain people over others. When that happens people’s feelings can get hurt. We have to constantly fight this mindset.

Leadership isn’t about being served. It’s about serving others. The higher you rise in leadership, the more people you serve. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” The desire to become a leader should be fueled by a desire to serve others.

In our church we’ve instituted a leadership pipeline. The leadership pipeline is a system used to identify and develop leaders at all different levels within your church. You can find out more of the details here.

Here’s what the levels look like in our church.

Attenders – those who attend our church but aren’t serving

Volunteers – those serving in any ministry of our church

Team Leaders – those who oversee one service of a ministry

Senior Team Leaders – those who oversee an entire ministry

Directors – those who oversee multiple ministries

Staff – those who get paid to oversee everything and everyone else

The language is slightly different among our small group ministry, but the concept is the same.

Non-Attenders – those who have never attended a group

Attender – those who are attending groups

Group Leader – those who lead a group

Group Coach – those who coach other group leaders

Group Director – those who coach the coaches

Each level within the pipeline brings with it a different set of tasks and responsibilities, which creates a natural progression for leaders to move up the pipeline as they prove themselves.

While leadership in a small town church has proved to be a work in progress, the leadership pipeline has been a great help. When we begin looking for a new director for our First Impressions ministry, we start by looking at the senior team leaders within that ministry. When we look for a new group coach, we start by looking at successful group leaders.

I’d love to hear what type of leadership system you’re using in your church as well. Please let us know in the comments section below. Are you using a leadership pipeline? Do you believe it’s been successful? Why or why not?

Fairness is Overrated

An Interview with Tim Stevens

I had the awesome opportunity to interview Tim Stevens about his book Fairness is Overrated earlier this month. It was one of my favorite reads in 2015, and one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read. It’s just a wealth of great information. I highly recommend you grab a copy for you and your team.

TimStevensInterview

Me: In your book you talk about “Going Dark” which is about the need to disconnect from television, radio, and social media from time to time, on the flip side of that, is there ever a case where you’ve seen that pastors need to be spending more time on social media?

Tim: Sure. I know some pastors have solid reasons for not connecting on social media, and I can’t question their motives. But I do think that they miss out on a major means for communicating with their congregation and learning about what is on the mind of their guests.

Me: You talk about “Guarding Your Family” in your book, can you explain what you mean there and how pastors can do a better job of it when they feel like the ministry is demanding so much of their time?

Tim: Too many pastors treat their ministry job like a mistress—and their family gets their leftovers. No one can love our wives or kids for us. That is where ministry happens best. If your church demands more of you than is reasonable, and your family is suffering—find a different church.

Me: You talk about “Finding the Right People”, where would you tell a pastor to start who may feel like he doesn’t have anyone in the church he can turn to?

Tim: Moses had a staff in his hand. David had five smooth stones. The disciples had a few loaves of bread and some fish. In each case, God used what they already had. So start where you are. Don’t be afraid to ask volunteers to step up to a new level. Look among your existing networks. Consider partnering with a college and start an internship program. Ask someone to start in a bi-vocational role until you are able to pay him or her more. Scarcity can either breed depression or innovation. Choose innovation, and get resourceful about how to grow the church.

Me: Chapter 21 is titled “Find Leaders, Not Doers” can you explain that, and also how do you go about identifying the leaders from the doers?

Tim: If you want to fill positions and get stuff done, then look for doers to get stuff done. But if you want to grow the church, then find leaders for all the key positions in the church. Leaders are people developers—they build teams and multiply those teams over and over again. They gladly give up something they enjoy doing as they find someone else to fill that role.

Me: You say that churches shouldn’t be fair, that’s so counter to what we’ve always heard, to be unfair is to be unlike Jesus right?

Tim: I believe Jesus talked about justice. Not fairness. It wasn’t fair that he spent so much time with 12 guys more than others. And among those 12, He spent an inordinate amount of time with just 3 guys. That wasn’t fair either. We’ve read the stories of all the people who he healed. But there we likely thousands of people he walked by in the crowds who he didn’t heal. Was that fair? Jesus didn’t model fairness in his ministry. But he did model justice for those who were oppressed, poor, widowed and orphaned.

Me: Can you explain what a ministry silo is, and why are they so dangerous for a church?

Tim: Silos develop around departments when they are focused more on their departmental purpose than they are on the overall church. This is pretty common, and happens naturally without being intentional. It can really serve to tear down the church when it is full of silos. No one knows what is the priority. Families are pulled in multiple directions. To our guests, it feels competitive rather than unified. And that turns people off. Ultimately the church begins to decline.

Me: In the chapter titled, “Count the Yes Votes” you talk about the importance of focusing on those who are with you, not on those who are leaving you, why do you think it’s so hard for churches to let people go?

Tim: Because we love them! We’ve done life with them, we’ve cried with them during seasons of pain, we’ve celebrated with them through key transitions in their life. So if they begin to move a different direction than the church, or begin to disagree with the priorities of the church—it hurts to let them go. This is natural, but also crucial!

Me: You say that churches have to be as willing to stop stuff as you are to start stuff, are there any areas of ministry that you think most churches should stop?

Tim: Anything that isn’t producing the results you want. And this is very hard for churches to figure out, because most of them don’t measure results. One of the most difficult things for a church to do is to end a program that is cherished by a few, but not benefitting the many. But leadership requires that we lead our church through some tough decisions so we can continue to thrive.

Tim Stevens BIO

After spending 20 years as the Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church, Tim Stevens is now the Director of Executive Search Consultants at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Tim has been a thought leader in the world of church and ministry for more than a dozen years and blogs at LeadingSmart.com. He has a passion for helping churches connect with people who think church is irrelevant and believes that finding the right staff is the most important and crucial ingredient to the success of any church. Tim is acutely tuned in to pop culture, and has been instrumental in building creative teams, inspiring artists and empowering leaders. Stevens has co-authored three books in the “Simply Strategic” series, is author of Pop Goes the Church and Vision: Lost and Found. His brand new book, Fairness is Overrated, was released by Thomas Nelson in January 2015. You can connect with Tim on Twitter @timastevens, or at facebook.com/tstevens.

Get Rich Slowly

The Secret to Accumulating Wealth

I really like money. I would say I love money, but the Bible says not to. If you’re like me, you like money too, and you wish you had more of it. Well today is your lucky day because I’ve found the three ingredients to accumulating more wealth, and I want to share it with you.

Pile of cash

When I was a teenager I was lazy. I liked money, but I wasn’t willing to work to get more of it. My idea of making more money was going to Mom and Dad and asking them for money without them finding out the other one had already given me twenty dollars.

My parents paid for everything. In high school they paid for my car, my insurance, gas, food, and anything else I needed. When I went to college they paid my rent, but they couldn’t afford my tuition. Thankfully, the government was willing to loan me the money.

The government must’ve known I would soon be making big money and could easily pay them back. They had to be surprised and a bit worried when my first job out of college paid seven dollars an hour. I know I was. They had to be even more worried when I quit that job a year later to go see a girl.

But that girl was exactly what I needed. That girl was my motivation.

Now, I needed money because I needed to get out of my parent’s house, and I needed money to pay for a wedding and a honeymoon. Now I have to think about kids and insurance and retirement and on and on.

Now, I can’t be lazy anymore, but more than that, I have to be smart. I have to figure out how to accumulate wealth, and I have found that there are three main ingredients.

  1. Live on a Budget – Yes, the word everyone loves to hate, the dreaded budget. You can’t accumulate wealth without one. You need to know how much money you’re bringing in and make sure it’s more than the money you have going out. It used to take hours to do this because you had to jot down every receipt and put it into a spreadsheet. Thankfully now there’s an app for that. Mint is the best budgeting app I’ve ever used. It does everything for you. You just need to link it to your online banking account and any other account you want to track. It’s safe, secure, and best of all, free.
  1. Reduce Your Debt – Once you start using a budget, you’ll soon find out where all your money is going. At this point you can reallocate some funds that may be going to Starbucks, McDonalds, or iTunes, and start using that extra cash to pay down debt. I really like Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Method, but whatever method you use, the main thing is you focus on paying off debt. The less debt you have, the more coffee, burgers, and music you can buy in the future.
  1. Give 10% Back to God – This is the piece most people miss because on the surface it doesn’t seem to make sense. How can you have more money if you’re giving it away? God tells us we are stewards. We are people who manage or look after someone else’s things. Nothing we have is ours. It is all God’s, and we’re responsible for looking after it and using it how God would want us to. We learn in Matthew 25, the importance of good stewardship. God’s blessings flow through open hands. If you’re doing everything else right and still can’t seem to get ahead, this may be the piece you’re missing.

These three ingredients are great, but there’s one thing that holds them all together. I like to think of it as the secret sauce of accumulating wealth.

Self-discipline holds all the pieces together. This is where most people fail. They have the right ingredients, but they don’t have the self-discipline.

A budget does you no good if you don’t stick to it. You’ll never pay down debt if you can’t say no to some things you want. Without self-discipline, you’ll be tempted to take the portion you’ve set aside to give back to God to pay for other things in your budget.

If you struggle in this area, and I think most of us do, Michael Hyatt gives five tips for developing more discipline in our lives.

Once you get disciplined, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy financial future.

What would you do with your life if money weren’t an issue? What one thing would you buy that you’ve never been able to afford?