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Financial Counseling at Church

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Sep 16, 2009 12:26 am

Has anyone done this?

  The church I go to is very large, and they have their own financial counseling program, with a focus on debt elimination, of course. I am meeting with the coordinator this week, and I talked to him for a bit about it. It is very similar to the Dave Ramsey approach. He said he would be open to letting me host seminars since they don't currently have anyone available with investment advice.   If anyone is familiar with the church financial counseling programs and how to implement retirement/education planning into that, I would appreciate some input. (I'm not looking at this from a sales standpoint, but from the viewpoint that I think most of these programs lack advice on the planning for the future side and just focus on debt elimination. I think both pieces are needed.)
Sep 16, 2009 12:41 am

If it’s your church (and it sounds like it is) and you’d be going to it whether you were in the business or not (and it sounds like you would be) then I’d say go for it.  Pick a lesson each week, keep your lessons short so you don’t sound salesy, simple so you don’t lose anyone, and give a little article, summary, or guide on the lesson for everyone to take home and look at and you’ll be good to go.  Don’t show up with a powerpoint, or binders or anything flashy.  I wouldn’t use anything more than something printed off Yahoo Finance or MSN Money, something everyone would have access to and from a website everyone is probably familiar with.

Keep in mind that the younger families in the debt counselling that are attending your class are probably not the target here, in fact, I can’t think of anything worse than doing investments for someone whose having financial problems because when they tell you they don’t need the money and won’t touch it and then they do anyway and get less than they put in or have to pay taxes and penalties, YOU’RE the bad guy and the greedy salesman.

The targets in all of this are retired or near retired, likely welathy, parisoners who are putting the workshop together and the professionals who are doing other parts of the presentations.  You definitely do not want to look bad to them because you chased a $20,000 401k rollover from someone who is having financial problems and seeking Christian-based debt counselling.

I know several reps in my area that niche market within their church and they just rake.  This isn’t the Bible Belt, it’s Wisconsin.  I’d imagine in other parts of the country people are even more motivated to work with someone in their Congregation.

Sep 16, 2009 1:06 pm

At our small church I have been facilitating the Freed-Up Financial Living series which is part of the Good $ense curriculum.  The reason we start with a debt type reduction program is because that is what the vast majority of people need.  We can also tie in very well the doctrine and teachings about finances from the Bible.  Once people are educated in budgeting and learning to live within their means while paying down “bad debt” then I think you have a case to expand into other things.

  The main point that I tell younger advisors about using the church or religion in general in trying to "prospect" is that go into it with a servant's heart so that you can help change lives.  Teach them the basics and help them to overcome all the world has taught them.  Be very careful in marketing to members of your church.  If you truly go into this with the heart of a servant or teacher then business will come from it.  I make it a policy to not solicit members of my congregation, but they do seek me out.   I also would not have education classes on specific products (i.e. annuities, mutual funds, etc).  Focus on a macro agenda as that is how I sell to all my clients anyway.  Do not make any presentation about you.
Sep 17, 2009 7:31 pm

I did a “Smart couples finish rich” seminar at a church a few years ago.  Never set foot in the church before or since.  I did it because they guy doing the typical debt/Dave Ramsey type class wanted someone to give a talk on the next post debt step, and he knew I was an advisor.  I think I did one follow up call to everyone, and let my prospecting go at that.  None of the “good” prospects ever did business with me, but a 25 yr old inherited $100-200k a few months later and called me to invest it.

Sep 21, 2009 7:43 pm

There's nothing wrong with doing this at the church, like many of the other members stated, but I would temper your expectations. Expect nothing, and you won't be disappointed. Use the opportunity to build your public speaking or presentation skills. Ultimately money will come from referrals or families within the church who need help or fall into money.

Church is no different than friends or family. You have to see these people every week, and if something doesn't meet their expectations, it could make things uncomfortable.
Sep 25, 2009 8:10 pm
The main point that I tell younger advisors about using the church or religion in general in trying to “prospect” is that go into it with a servant’s heart so that you can help change lives.

I personally wouldn't even have a "prospecting" mindset. This should be a chance to give of your talents. With all the bspears' schleping annuities and Ron 14's selling bank products and Incredible Hulk's selling A shares and rolling to AS 2 years later, you can really save some folks a lot of grief.
Disclaimer: I have been at my church for nearly 10 years and have less than 5 unsolicited church members as clients. So you may starve taking my advice.
Sep 27, 2009 12:33 am


  I agree with you completely.  I teach classes at the church to help, but I truly never prospect.  I have clients from my church, but I never call members who are not already clients.  I firmly believe that if you learn to help others you will get residual clients from that though.  I have never cared if I had a client from my church, but I believe in helping so I will continue to provide my service so they can stay away from all the leeches in this business.  If you have been in the business very long you have seen some really bad advice given out there taking advantage of simple honest people.