Surprisingly, communist-controlled Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the western hemisphere. According to National Public Radio, literacy in Cuba is “nearly universal.”

How is this possible? One word explains it – commitment.

In each level of the Cuban society – from government to business to education and to the citizens of Cuba – they have made a commitment to do its part to stamp out illiteracy.

One example of such commitment comes from teachers who traveled to various towns and cities to teach people how to read. They made sacrifices for the sake of a future that had greater promise than the reality in which people were living.

To clergy and laity of the Indiana Conference: what kind of commitment are you and I willing to make to stamp out financial illiteracy among us, individually and corporately as congregations?

In many places, “money talk” or congregational discussions about financial stewardship is a taboo topic among both clergy and laity, according to the Rev. Dr. Bill Enright, executive director of The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. This taboo topic has had a great impact on the former North and South Indiana conferences, an impact that carried a residue into the new Indiana Conference. This taboo topic is one of the causes of financial illiteracy on the part of individuals and congregations.

Another cause of financial illiteracy among clergy is the absence of a course on personal financial planning during seminary. Fortunately, a few seminaries are now incorporating such a course in their curriculum.

If we, the Indiana Conference, are to reach our God-given potential of being a conference of generosity and not a conference of scarcity, it will require all of us as conference leaders, pastors, members and friends to make a commitment to help stamp out financial illiteracy wherever we find it.

Action is needed.

First, each of us as clergy or laity will take an honest assessment of our personal finances. We need to encourage clergy colleagues and lay friends to do the same.

Second, we need to be sure our congregations offer the resources to help members and friends grow in financial discipleship that affirms giving is a spiritual matter. To grow in the area of financial discipleship also means we understand we have been entrusted to care for or be a good steward of all we have, including family and financial resources. We recognize there is one owner – God. And, we know God will ask us to give an account of what we have done with what we have been called to be as stewards.

There are two resources that Rejuvenate recommends to help clergy and laity get an honest assessment of their current financial health. They are Good $ense Ministries and Financial Peace University. Both programs are faith-based stewardship educational programs. Visit Rejuvenate’s website at and click on “2010-2011 Educational Opportunities” to learn more about these and other programs.

Third, let’s talk openly about finances. Let’s discuss what it means to be stewards and not owners of all we have. I encourage both clergy and lay leaders to register for an “Extravagant Generosity” workshop with the Rev. David Bell. He assists clergy in understanding their role as a stewardship leader. He assists lay teams in understanding “the call to financial discipleship.” The theological understanding of stewardship Bell presents creates a foundation that will benefit Indiana congregations.

Fourth, become a member of the Rejuvenate Team. You will not have to attend meetings. As a team member, you will be asked to encourage other Hoosier United Methodists throughout Indiana to become the best stewards they can be by becoming financially literate and then to grow in financial management and planning.

As a team member, when you experience a success in financial management and planning, or if you have a great stewardship sermon or Bible study, or if you wish to share how you are growing in financial discipleship, share your success through Rejuvenate’s website. E-mail your news to Michelle Cobb, project director ( Rejuvenate will post your success on its website.

Finally, as a team member, remind clergy and laity alike that if they feel financially illiterate, they can receive help through Rejuvenate, the educational program for clergy and laity that has grants for eligible clergy.

For more information, visit or call Rejuvenate toll-free at 877-781-6706.

Make a commitment to help stamp out financial illiteracy wherever we find it.