Oklahoma pastors plan for debt-free future

Sapulpa, Oklahoma

Some people may be overwhelmed at the idea of paying back more than $30,000 in debt, but Michelle and Jeff Carden will soon put that worry behind them.

The Cardens are 2014 Southern Nazarene University graduates. Their calls to ministry led them to SNU, and now, four years later, Michelle is the children’s pastor, and Jeff is the digital ministries pastor at Sapulpa Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma.

Before they got married, Michelle and Jeff decided to take some practical steps toward managing their finances effectively, but no matter how proactive they were, there were some things that were out of their control.

“My husband and I took Dave Ramsey [finance classes] before we got married and are committed to financial health in our family, but we came out of school with a decent amount of debt that we knew would take us a long time to pay off,” Michelle said.

Though they were able to pay off a large portion of their student loans, they still had a long way to go.

“$17,000 [of our debt had been paid off], but we were really struggling with the final $15,000,” Michelle said. 

While they were attending a conference in Oklahoma, Michelle and Jeff heard about The COMPASS Initiative, a program led by the Church of the Nazarene that addresses U.S. pastors’ financial challenges. 

“I first heard of COMPASS at a young ministers conference that I was attending in Oklahoma City before the program even began,” Michelle said. “I then heard about it again on our district.”

The Cardens saw the opportunity, and shortly after applying, they were accepted into the program. Now, with only three months left in the program, Michelle and Jeff are almost entirely out of debt.

“With the COMPASS grant and with what we were able to pay off so far, this year we will come out debt free,” Michelle said.

Not only are they almost out of debt, but they aren’t waiting until then to begin planning for their future.

“We are really excited to get a head start on planning for our future, including retirement and college funds for our future littles,” Michelle said. “[We are] motivated to stay focused, as well as encouraged to continue our education and keep pressing forward.”

In addition to enabling them to take control of their debt, the program has driven them to learn more about handling church finances more effectively.

“We are excited to continue our journey to financial health in our marriage and our ministry,” Michelle said. “We can't wait to see what opportunities we are able to take when we know that our finances are taken care of.”

To learn more about The COMPASS Initiative, click here.

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