The Shepherd’s Guide through the Valley of Debt and Financial Change

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By Flora Williams

This volume, which does seem as long and big as its title, is a reference book. It deals with almost any financial question that a pastor or other counselor might meet in dealing with a parishioner or client. The author—a retired Purdue University professor, counselor, and Church of the Brethren pastor—has observed that many—perhaps most—pastors are not equipped, and do not feel equipped, to deal with financial issues when counseling. (A recent Pew Research Center survey indicates many parishioners agree). Flora Williams wants to change that.

I see two reasons why some pastors might raise questions about this book. First, Williams is theologically conservative, and some paragraphs are close to preaching. Some pastors prefer to keep their theology and their financial counseling separate. But this should not distract from the wealth of information and experience shared in this book.

Second, Williams seems to assume the reader knows nothing, and the reader may therefore feel like a college freshman. However, her experience tells her that many pastors need exactly what she is offering here. For example, a pastor may feel quite secure and competent in premarital counseling about money, but know nothing about pros and cons of declaring bankruptcy, or about gambling addiction, or about estate planning.

Williams has lots of examples with different options to deal with a situation. She has lots of tables about budgeting and investing long term and short term. Most helpful are lists of questions to consider with each financial situation addressed, not just about where we go from here, but about how we got into the financial valley we are trying to get out of.

Review by Hermann Weinlick, retired Moravian pastor and ecumenical officer for the Moravian Church in North America. His work as a freelance editor includes copy-editing the Feasting on the Word lectionary commentary. He is a member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Resource Editorial Team.

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