The next time you care to lend a historical perspective to a discussion about saving and investing, you might recount well-worn stories about the dot.com bust or the stock market crash of 1929. Or you could hark back–way back–to the time of the biblical Joseph, who spoke to Pharaoh about the value of storing food during years of plenty to guard against the 7 years of famine that Joseph prophesied.
A growing number of financial advisors are citing scripture in client consultations and winning converts (so to speak) to their practices. A biblical orientation in financial planning, say producers established in this space, speaks powerfully to their Christian clientele, easing the advisor’s ability to establish a trusting relationship with prospects.
“Success in our industry is all about the relationship,” says Larry Rosenthal, a financial planner and president of Financial Planning Services, Manassas, Va. “When you’re teaching biblical principles in financial planning, the bond grows even stronger.”
John Harrison, a principal of Capital Choice Financial Services, Austin, Texas, agrees, adding that a biblical focus “makes Christians feel that much better about our recommendations.”
How large is the Christian financial planning market? Hakeeb Web, a managing partner at National Christian Financial Advisors, pegs the industry’s size at $2.8 trillion in assets under management. The Christian Financial Professionals Network, an alliance of the Crown Financial Ministries, Generous Giving and The National Christian Foundation, counts 735 advisors among its members, a number that it plans to boost to 2,000 by year-end 2006.
CFPN is not alone in helping Christian advisors connect with the faithful. Educational Seminars, Melbourne, Fla., holds courses that teach advisors how to conduct bible-based money management seminars in churches. The seminars feature topics discussed in their secular counterparts, such as retirement and estate planning, taxes and investment choices.
But the gatherings use a 3-step approach in blending biblical teachings with the secular topics, according to Educational Seminars President and CEO Richard Parker. In step 1, the advisor talks about “insight from God’s word,” relating the Bible in a general way to the topic at hand.
In step 2, the advisor cites the relevant biblical verse. (Some 2,000 scriptures address money management, observers say.) In the final step, the producer speaks to the scripture’s contemporary significance.
Parker illustrates the methodology using the example of goal-setting. The advisor, he says, would first explain that scripture encourages people to rest easy about past failures and focus on the future. The advisor might then cite Philippians 3:13 and 3:14 from the New Testament, which says, in part, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Of the scripture’s contemporary significance, Parker says: “No matter where we are today, the Bible tells us that we have to work toward reaching goals. We’ve all made mistakes. Don’t worry about them; let’s move forward.”