Hoosiers find financial peace through church workshop

Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - If there is one thing we've all learned from this past year of economic struggles, it's that when it comes to our finances, we could all use a little help. Hundreds of Hoosiers turn to their churches to find the answer.

On a recent Sunday at the Lifepoint Christian Church, a somewhat unorthodox ceremony was underway. Call it a baptism of sorts into the world of financial peace.

"Our program is called Financial Peace University," said Dustin Hardin, facilitator.

Financial Peace University is a 13-week program offered at a number of central Indiana churches.

Once $60,000 in debt, Kelly and Dustin Hardin are firm believers.

"Money could have easily become a big frustration in our marriage," she said.

By adopting the principles that promote in part using only cash, they were able to see their mountain of debt disappear and their relationship grow stronger.

"To be able to not have the stress of fighting out it and why you are saving," said Dustin.

Hardin asked participants about their financial activity over the past week.

"I wrote a check today and paid off debt - $720," said one participant.

"It just changed our way of thinking about money," said Kelly Hardin.

They made it their mission to share what they learned, so they brought the program to their church - perhaps an unlikely place until you consider the source.

Dave Ramsey, a man with a background in finance who found religion, makes it sell.

"Regardless of which 'brand' of church it is, when you go in the door you're looking for help," he said. "Your great grandparents thought of debt as sin."

If debt is a sin, Dave Ramsey is the motivational prophet delivering people from it.

"Money is not just information. It has to have inspiration with it because it's got so much to do with habits. If I don't change my habits, I don't win," said Ramsey.

Throngs of devotees flock to hear his message of financial healing - a message that promotes cash only, living by a budget, having an emergency fund and paying off smallest debts first, a surprisingly simple one.

But with the intensity of a preacher at a church revival, he inspires results.

Some 800,000 families have completed Financial Peace University. On average they pay $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in just 90 days.

While it's been a successful program for years, in the past year as the economy has struggled, people have looked to churches to see them through it. For many, they found financial peace in a place they never expected.

For Heidi and Matthew Pierce, it was the Lifepoint Christian church.

"Happy to say if all goes well in the next month we'll be debt-free, except for our house, for the first time in our marriage," said Matthew Pierce.

They came here seeking answers. With a prayer and a pair of scissors to cut up their credit cards, it's where they found financial peace.

Dave Ramsey - Learn about local workshops and sign up for financial advice