I had been a “Financial Peace University” (FPU) coordinator (Dave Ramsey / Ramsey Solutions) for several years. I have facilitated full classes, classes with just one person, and I’ve done financial coaching under a different program.
Recently I resigned from my church’s FPU when its Momentum program required a controversial personality test, “The Enneagram”, be taken and discussed during a team meeting. The test is considered by many to be rooted in mysticism and I refused to be associated with that, even if it meant leaving Dave Ramsey’s FPU Momentum team in my church. More information is available at http://enneagram.church . I continue to stand by my decision – I do not believe FPU coordinators should not be required to take the Enneagram in a Momentum related capacity. I questioned it privately to the church staff member in charge of Momentum at my church and was cut off from our church’s internal communication system for Momentum without notice or explanation – like a cult would cut off a dissenter. And so, I left the program.
I’ve now been outside the group and coordinating for some time and there are some things I have a little more perspective on. In a way it’s like I have been deprogrammed. I don’t regret facilitating FPU and still endorse the general values and principles of its program. But I also believe that coaching is something that makes it much more effective.
I found that FPU lacked the humanity that coaching brings. FPU is a system that’s been distilled to a point where it can be duplicated, replicated, and facilitated by anyone. It’s the very definition of a franchise ready business model. In the times I facilitated FPU with a single student, I found that I could integrate the coaching skills I’d learned into it and be able to look at a bigger picture, individual situations, and address individual concerns that even the ‘small group’ discussions and exercises couldn’t facilitate such as issues regarding being a student, poverty, or missionary.
While FPU focuses largely on ‘behavior’ such as budgeting, saving, and tithing, I have come to believe some of the humanity is lost. I strongly believe that going through a financial process is very similar to those that deal with poverty in terms of factors that impact the process: financial (the money itself), emotional (how we feel and react), mental (the ability to gain and use skills as well as cope with the day-to-day), spiritual (belief in a divinity), physical (our wellness and ability to get around), support systems (the ones we turn to in times of need), and role models (access to those who exhibit healthy behaviors in the areas of struggle) (Payne, 2013).
FPU gives students skills and behaviors as well as recommends an accountability partner but I truly believe if coaching were integrated as a standard not a value-added proposition (Ramsey Solutions has an expensive coaching certification program with a cost not accessible to regular coordinators), there could not only be greater success but access to a wider range of resources for students with individualized needs.
I also believe that the rigidity of the program, presently without coaching integrated, can cause one to miss out on things that can bring life to areas of struggle. Many students in FPU forgo all extra spending except debt payments and the tithe. Some even curtail extra giving. There is however a psychological and spiritual positive effect to giving above and beyond one’ s tithe. ‘Giving out of need’ can often help take the focus off one’s own struggles and one’s own self. That change of focus can help people in FPU who feel discouraged and may be too focused on the baby steps and could benefit from being focused on other people for a little. A coach could help bring that dimension to the journey in FPU. I’ve seen too many FPU students simply REFUSE to give even $25 to a need while on the baby steps and when they do that I truly believe a coach could step in and say ‘it’s okay to do that’ and when they do, it could result in a transformation of a different kind. I believe they could also be missing out on a blessing.
I’ve also had students question if they could engage in proper self -care since it could cost money. Proper self care is paramount to emotional wellness as well as maintaining a good social support system. To not engage in it could cause someone to become discouraged, depressed, or even take their own life. A coach could encourage someone when it is and isn’t appropriate along the baby steps to take proper self care.
At the end of the day, given some time and space away from the program, I know I’m not opposed to it. I just believe that not every situation is the same and a touch of humanity could ultimately transform this program. Since there’s premium coaching programs within Ramsey Solution’s offerings, I have to assume it won’t be added in the future to the main program, but I do believe if it’s not, churches should pursue other avenues and companies to potentially engage for coaching training and implementation. To do so could not just improve debt payoffs, building program progress, or statistics – they could improve or even help save lives.
Would I still facilitate FPU today? Yes. But do I believe it could be so much more? Most definitely. The challenge would be making it such while still maintaining its ability to be replicated and duplicated. Therein lies the challenge and perhaps…the future.
Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process.