Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) desires to promote conversations and curricular integration to move students and faculty into a more complete understanding and practice of what it means to steward one’s whole life for God’s glory. In previous ON newsletter articles, we have highlighted our workplace internship program for pastoral students and other initiatives. In this article, we highlight the work of the Ron Blue Institute.
There are many ways we are intentionally instilling the truths of faithful stewardship into our students and faculty, but one of the most comprehensive initiatives we have undertaken has been our opening of the Ron Blue Institute for Financial Planning. For many people, stewarding one’s whole life begins with a proper understanding of how to manage money. From this starting point, a stewardship approach to life quickly extends into how people manifest God’s love for others and how they work to promote human flourishing in communities around the world.
Established in 2012, the Ron Blue Institute (RBI) has provided us with the opportunity to think more critically about how what we teach (or don’t teach) about money is impacting our faculty and graduating students. Realizing that when we fail to teach people to manage their money in accordance with biblical wisdom, we are sending them unprepared into a world that is desperately trying to convince them to love money more than God. We know that Jesus tells us we can’t serve both God and money; we must choose one. This message of materialism and consumption has become so pervasive in our society that it is even difficult for many mature Christians to readily identify it. Furthermore, failing to identify the subtle tension between serving God with our money and serving ourselves with our money almost always results in a life that is not wholly devoted to serving God, loving others and promoting human flourishing in communities.
The main initiatives undertaken by RBI at IWU for the benefit of our students and faculty center around peer-to-peer coaching, creating for-credit and not-for-credit co-curricular opportunities, and training our faculty and staff.
The NEXUS Financial Discipleship Center opened a few years ago on the campus of IWU with the idea of students providing financial coaching to other students. The NEXUS peer-to-peer coaches receive more than 40 hours of training and are equipped to provide biblically based financial coaching and discipleship to their fellow classmates. The coaches seek to teach the scriptural basis of money management through consistent accountability and the use of tailored tools and resources to make decisions rooted in biblical wisdom. One of the first graduates of the NEXUS discipleship center remarked that the counseling he received from a NEXUS coach allowed him to develop a plan so that he could follow his calling to be a pastor while still being confident in his ability to repay his student debt. Without the counseling of NEXUS, he would not have been able to enter into the ministry.
In addition to the NEXUS discipleship center, RBI has helped IWU add to the breadth and depth of classes teaching a biblical worldview of money and financial decision making. By developing both for-credit and not-for-credit classes, students in the undergraduate, graduate, and seminary programs have access to an array of classes, programs, certificates, and degrees. One of the most widely attended personal finance classes developed by RBI is Personal Finance course taken by all associate degree students in our DeVoe School of Business. More than 4,000 students have completed this course. We also offer a Personal and Family Finance elective for our residential students with approximately 1,000 students having completed this course over the past five years. After finishing the class, one student saw a change in her attitude toward more than just money. She said, “Now I hope to continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of scriptures to apply it more accurately to every area of my life, including my finances.” These classes, programs, and degrees provide an opportunity for students to grow personally in their own understanding of stewardship and, if desired, to pursue a career in financial planning providing biblically wise financial advice. The options are now vast and there exists an infrastructure where every student can come face to face with the truths of the Bible and its call to whole life stewardship.
Finally, this year RBI has begun facilitating training for all of IWU’s faculty and staff on the subject of personal finance and decision making. By strategically equipping the faculty and staff of IWU, the importance and understanding of biblical stewardship is taking deeper root. By learning and developing a common language, the whole campus is beginning to better understand what the Bible says about money and what it means for their whole lives. This initiative will hopefully be the catalyst to launch more programs and classes such that every student graduating from IWU will graduate with an understanding that God is the owner of everything they have and they are responsible for managing it in accordance with His will.
David Wright, President of IWU, summed up the goal of the integration of RBI into IWU well when he said, “learning how the Bible guides our use of money is essential to being a good steward. Unfortunately, careful, considered, Biblical teaching on this subject is hard to find. This is why I committed IWU to create and sustain the Ron Blue Institute. My dream is for every student at IWU, and at Christian colleges across the country, to have the clear and compelling help of Ron Blue’s teaching about Biblical principles regarding the creation and use of our wealth.”
The integration of RBI at IWU is still in its beginning stages, but we have already seen very tangible and real results. Going forward we are encouraged by the seemingly limitless transformational possibilities. When Christians begin to take seriously their role as stewards of God’s resources, we believe that people’s hearts will be changed, families will be restored, neighborhoods renewed, and culture will be pointed back to God. Stewardship is not just about how well people live within a budget, it is about seeing everything we have, do, and are as a spiritual act of worship and then allowing the overflow of that perspective to result in loving our neighbors and promoting human flourishing all over the world.