Lessons learned from 2022 (2): Financial management

In my previous article, I wrote about how we addressed the written communication gap by adding the Business Model Canvas and building strong coaching relationships with church planters, emphasizing intentional, life-sharing discipleship to achieve self-sustainability and fruitful business planting. 

In this follow-up article, I will share the challenges we encountered regarding finances! We will focus on  creating and keeping budgets, the mixing of business money with personal money and how to foster openness and transparency between spouses.

1. Creating and keeping a family budget

For many participants, creating a family or personal budget is a new concept, and maintaining it proves to be even more difficult. One time an African leader interrupted me during our teaching on personal budget and said:

“Jonathan, this teaching makes me sad. I know this is very important. But, let’s be honest. This is one the biggest problems why Africans are in debt and not successful. We don’t make and keep a personal budget. We never have had examples of doing it. Our parents never saved for us. We lived from “hand to mouth”. They didn’t create a personal budget and didn’t know how to keep it. They didn’t plan. We don’t have examples and have a hard time doing it, but I know it is very important.”

Through colonialism, many Africans were exploited and used as slaves. They were seen as inferior. They didn’t have much to eat and they didn’t have opportunities to build up their own lives. This affected the mindset of the people tremendously:

1. They felt inferior. The weren’t worthy to make a change. They thought they couldn’t do it.

2. They relied on outsiders for their survival.

3. They were afraid of taking initiative. What would happen? Will I fail? 

We see this fear happening in the Bible as well when the 12 spies came back from scouting the promised land. After years of slavery in Egypt, 10 of the 12 spies complained and spread a bad report (Numbers 13). They were afraid to enter the promised land. They didn’t know what would happen. They had to learn to stand on their own feet. 

As a result of colonialism, a lot of people in Africa are in poverty. They feel inferior, but also are afraid and don’t always take initiative. They also don’t have a model on how to make a budget, keep a budget and plan.

The minds and the heart of the people need to change through the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Eph 1:17-19 (NKJV) 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what [is] the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

Rom 12:2 (NKJV) 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

2 Cor 10:4-5 (NKJV) 4 For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

People need to get out of slavery mentality into a new mindset of being sons and daughters of the Father. Strongholds need to be cast down.

To help people learn to overcome this, these are the things we do:

1. Pray. Prayer is very important. We ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation and conviction. And we teach and share the Word of God. 

2. We teach the people how to make a personal/family budget. We don’t only teach, but we sit down with them and help them one on one and coach them writing it down.

3. We introduced the Envelope Game as part of the Pioneer Business Planting training. This game instructs participants to divide their personal income into different categories represented by physical envelopes. Through real-life scenarios, participants learn how to make financial decisions. For example, they must consider appropriate actions if they run out of money in the ‘food’ envelope for the month.

4. Additionally, we have incorporated Google Spreadsheets for personal budgeting, business budgeting, bookkeeping, and cash flow management. This digital tool enables coaches to review participants’ financial data and provide more effective guidance.

5. We reiterate the principles of financial management in our coaching. We do this very intentional on a day to day, week to week basis. We go back through Scriptures and give encouragement and tips.

2. Spending business money for personal expenses

Individuals in Africa and Asia often allocate their business earnings to cover personal expenses. For instance, the entirety of a day’s earnings from a barbershop might be directed towards purchasing food for their households. This practice is rooted in the stark reality that many people face dire circumstances and lack sufficient resources. However, this approach comes with a significant drawback: funds that should ideally be reinvested into the business, such as for buying inventory, end up being channeled into personal outlays. Consequently, the ability to purchase inventory is compromised, leading to a standstill in business operations.

In our training and coaching programs, we underscore a fundamental principle: the funds belonging to a business are distinct from those of the business owner’s personal finances. The owner is entitled only to a designated salary. While this notion can be initially jarring, it gradually gains traction and acceptance through continuous guidance and education.

An illustrative case from Kenya involves one of our dedicated church planters. By setting aside a portion of his earnings for emergencies instead of solely using it for personal needs, he was able to weather a burglary incident. Armed with the funds he had saved for this purpose, he promptly replaced stolen inventory and was able to reopen his shop without delay the following day.

3. Openness and transparency between spouses regarding finances

In African and Asian societies, we have noticed a cultural tendency where spouses frequently hide financial information from each other. For example, a husband might downplay his job position or income to his wife due to concerns about irresponsible spending, or a wife might withhold details about her expenses from her husband. This lack of transparency can lead to mistrust within the marriage. To encourage open dialogue regarding finances, we have changed our terminology from “Personal Budget” to “Family Budget”. In finding participants to train, we encourage couples to come to the training and learn together. We actively promote spouses working together to establish a joint family budget, fostering unity and enhancing mutual understanding.

Through these lessons learned and the strategies we have implemented, we aim to empower individuals, foster sustainable business development, and promote effective financial management.

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