BY MACIEJ LOBZA
Jon and Evelyn Bean, founders of Compass Catholic Ministries, have overcome major financial issues which had created great tension in their marriage. Now they help others to manage their finances in God’s way. Catholic Business Journal international columnist Maciej Lobza recently spoke with them about their financial ministry:
Q. What was the journey that led you to founding Compass Catholic Ministries?
A. In the mid 80’s, Jon started his own business and we ended up experiencing total financial failure. In 1987 we took a non-denominational Bible Study and learned how to manage our money and possessions according to the Bible. This was a life-changing experience for us, both financially and spiritually.
After being invovled in the non-denominational ministry for 20 years, we decided to start Compass Catholic Ministries in order to concentrate on ministry within the Catholic community. Now we are both retired from paid employment in order to serve God full-time in this ministry. Jon serves as the board president of the organization.
Q. What are your career and educational backgrounds?
A. We feel blessed to have been married 42 years. We enjoy family life and serving God in the ministry. Jon has B.S. in Physical Education from Springfield College and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. He first worked for Westinghouse/Siemens, where he stayed for 25 years, and later worked for the Conference Board. Evelyn has a B.S. in English from Slippery Rock University. She worked at Westinghouse for 18 years and then as a business process consultant for 14 years.
Q. In the face of financial crisis, do most business people try to manage their finance in God’s way?
A. It’s an unfortunate situation, but most people, be they business people or not, religious or not, don’t fully recognize all that God has to say about how to handle their money and possessions. They may know that God talks about stewardship in the Scriptures, but when they are told that there are over 2500 verses dealing with money, possessions and basic stewardship issues, they are shocked.
I tell a story during my seminars about the mercenaries who fought in the Crusades during the 12th Century. Because it was a religious war their leaders felt that the mercenaries had to be baptized, and so they were. But when they rode their horses into the water for Baptism, they held their swords high above their heads. They felt that God could control their lives, but he couldn’t control their swords.
Too many people today, in all parts of the world, do the same thing with their wallets. They “hold their wallets high above their heads” indicating that while they will give most of their lives to God, He can’t control their financial lives.
Most business people are so tied to normal accounting practices and our secular economy that it never even occurs to them to use God’s principles to run their business, especially when it seems that God’s ways contradict standard secular accounting practices. We tend to forget that “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways…(Isaiah 55:8-9)
Q. How can Compass Catholic Ministries help these people?
A. Our nine-week Bible study is not just about how to create a budget or get out of debt. The most important aspect we convey to our participants is that we are God’s stewards. The Lord owns all our possessions. “To the LORD belong even the highest heavens; the earth is his also, and everything on it.” (Deuteronomy 10:14, GNT) “The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are his.” (Psalm 24:1, GNT)
As stewards it is our responsibility to manage all the blessings that God has bestowed on us. That includes our families, homes, jobs, and businesses. Once people realize and totally absorb the understanding of our role as stewards, it changes their whole life.
In the secular economy that we live in today we are continually coerced with the idea that our lives are insufficient, that we are totally unfulfilled unless we own the newest, fanciest car, the best clothes, take lavish vacations, etc. The basis of the secular economy is that there is something just around the corner that is bigger or better and that we will never be happy or fulfilled until we have it.
The reality is that no temporal thing will make us happy – only a relationship with God can truly fulfill us. Through our close relationship with Jesus Christ, through our participation in the Eucharist and the Sacraments, we can be totally fulfilled, totally happy. Not only does this give us internal happiness, but through our actions and words, we have the ability to share God’s message with all those we encounter.
Q. Why did you and your wife Evelyn decided to start this organization?
A. In 1987 we were introduced to a very similar non-denominational organization through our priest. Several years before I had tried to start a business, and to be honest, I was totally unprepared and basically incapable of making it a successful venture at that time in my life. During the 5 years that I persevered in trying to make the business work, we lost over $250,000 in savings and when the money ran out, we still had our credit cards! We ran up about $35,000 worth of credit card debt along with our house mortgage and two car loans. You can only imagine the stress that our finances placed on our marriage!
So at our priest’s urging I attended this Bible study. They were teaching the same principles and I began to realize that I really didn’t have a financial problem; I had a very large spiritual problem. I thought that I was in control, but I learned that God is really in control.
To shorten a long story, over the course of the next 18 years we worked very hard to have a better spiritual life and to correct our financial errors. One of the most important things that we did was to introduce this Bible study to our parish. You might think that with all of our financial mishaps we were ill suited to teach a financial Bible study. This is just another example of how God doesn’t necessarily call the qualified; He qualifies the called.
We facilitated 3 or 4 studies each year. This did two things for us. We were able to stay in God’s Word all of the time and we were able to stay focused on correcting our financial woes. It took several years to turn things around, but we did. Not only did our financial lives improve, but our spiritual lives improved significantly also.
We were also highly motivated by seeing the changes that occurred in the class participants. In every Bible Study we facilitated we always had several of the participants obtain the same heart change that we experienced. As the years progressed I believe that we experience even greater satisfaction from seeing the changes in others than in the internal changes we were experiencing.
We wanted to share this with Catholic’s globally, but because of the non-denominational nature to the program, many priests and parishes did not accept the study. We formed Compass Catholic Ministries so that we could present the study from a Catholic theological perspective. We approached the original author of the material, Howard Dayton, who agreed to let us edit the material and bring it from a Catholic perspective.
Once our editing was completed, we were able to obtain an imprimatur from the Bishop of Orlando, FL, Bishop John Noonan. This gave us a totally Catholic study we could share with the world.
Q. How has your faith grown over the years?
A. Our faith lives have been significantly strengthened over the past 25 years. Just before we took that first financial Bible study we both attended a Cursillo weekend. We have stayed active in our local Cursillo movement even as busy as we are with the ministry.
I converted to the Catholic faith just prior to our wedding 42 years ago. At that time there really wasn’t a formal RCIA program or even Pre-Cana, so I have had a lot of learning and catching up to do since then. One of the interesting things in being involved in the non-denominational ministry was that being only two of four or five Catholics in the ministry, we were constantly being questioned about our faith and why Catholic’s did this or that.
In the early years we really had problems with answering many of these questions. So in addition to our financial studies, we did quite a bit of study of our faith so that we could answer all the questions and provide some background for the “why” our Catholic faith is what it is. Our Protestant friends actually made us more knowledgeable and better prepared Catholics.
Q. Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
A. My father had a huge influence on my life. He wasn’t a deeply spiritual man, but he knew how to treat people well, had a great deal of common sense and was a great encourager of those around him. I’ve always felt that if I could ever develop even half of my father’s people skills, I could be very successful.
From a spiritual aspect, I have to give great credit to my wife, Evelyn. She has a deep spiritual presence and since she has been Catholic all of her life and attended Catholic grade school, she has always been able to guide and direct me as I’ve gone deeper and deeper into my faith.
A third person who has impacted my life in a big way is Howard Dayton. He wrote the original financial Bible study that had such an impact on our lives. Howard is an exceptionally spiritual and prayerful person who provides a great example to all whom he encounters. His guidance and encouragement has been important to both of us as we have journeyed the past 25 years to get to where we are today.
Q. What is your vision for Compass Catholic Ministries?
A. Our vision for Compass Catholic Ministries is to see Catholics fully engaged in their faith and joyfully fulfilling the unique purpose God has for their lives.
As we have grown in our own spirituality, we have become aware that many Catholics — especially those we have encountered in the United States — have rather moderate spiritual lives. Based on statistics that we have seen about Catholics in other countries, this may be a universal issue within the Church.
We want every Catholic around the world to feel the same sense of achievement and fulfillment that we feel. Through the Bible study, we have seen many, many participants begin the journey down this path. Our hope is that over the years to come, we can have a continually greater impact on those we encounter through our ministry.
Q. What challenges do you face as organization?
A. Like any small ministry, funding is always an issue. We work as volunteers in the ministry, as do all others who are involved. The ministry survives on donations and to some extent on book sales, so although we know that God provides, we also know that he has given us the capability to seek funding, and we try to do that as best that we can.
The other challenge that we face is having enough volunteers to spread our message. Fortunately we have a few great people in places like Orlando, Miami, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix, Green Bay, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Krakow and Zagreb. In order to have a greater impact on the global Church, we need many more volunteers to help us spread God’s Word and to work in their local parishes and dioceses.
Q. In which countries are you active?
We have been active in the United States for the past two years, and in November 2012 we completed visits to both Poland and Croatia where we introduced Compass Catholic Ministries with significant success.
We are hopeful to make another international trip early this summer to introduce Compass Catholic Ministries to others in Western and Eastern Europe. We also hope to see major expansion in the United States in the near future.
Q. In what languages is your curriculum available?
A. Our initial effort was in English and we will have a Spanish version available during the first quarter of 2013. Efforts are now underway in both Poland and Croatia to translate and make the material culturally appropriate in the hopes that the study will be available by the fourth quarter of 2013.
Our objective is to make the material available as God presents us with the opportunities and raises local volunteers to guide the ministry in any country that expresses interest.
Q. Who can become a facilitator?
A. Pretty much anyone who is in good standing with the Church and has the approval of their pastor can become a facilitator. As you’ve seen from our story, significant financial experience is not an issue. We are looking for those who have a servant’s heart and are eager to share God’s Word with others.
Q. What are the easy steps to managing finance in God’s way?
A. “Easy steps” might be a misnomer for most people. Accepting that God owns everything and is in control of all that we do is a pretty difficult concept for many people to believe. This really entails a significant heart change for most people. A good starting point is to realize that all you have is a blessing from God, which will prepare you to take a serious look at your finances.
The second most important thing is to stop believing all of the advertising that bombards us 24/7 on the TV, radio, the internet, in magazines and newspapers, on billboards and even from our friends and neighbors. Man’s economy will not create happiness, but if you seek to believe and practice what God tells us in the Bible you will ultimately find happiness. Hebrews 13:5 tells us, “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have…”
A third step is to totally stop using your credit cards until they are all paid off. God tells us in Sirach 20:11 “A man may buy much for little, but pay for it seven times over.” Proverbs 22:7 reads: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”
When we are in debt — we are a slave to the lender. And the deeper we are in debt, the more like slaves we become. We don’t have the freedom to decide where to spend our income, because it’s already obligated to meet our debt payments.
Keeping track of every penny that is spent for 90 days will result in surprising results for most people. We have found that most people spend more than they earn but they don’t realize this because they don’t maintain a budget or track their spending.
Q. How can your ministry help better prepare children for the financial challenges they may face as adults?
A. Right now we are concentrating on teaching parents who can teach their children. An easy way of preparing children up to the age of about 12 is to have them separate all money that they receive from gifts, allowances, or performing chores into 3 categories: Giving, Saving and Spending. By dividing their money into the categories, children begin to learn about saving and giving while at the same time having money to spend.
When children hit their early teens, it’s time to begin teaching them about budgeting on a larger scale by dividing their spending into several categories that match their life style. Clothes become important as teens mature and “eating out” and entertainment become major activities. Once parents give the teens a specific amount of money for one of these categories and the teen is responsible for spending decisions, it’s amazing how fast they become careful shoppers looking for bargains. The important thing is the parents have to let them make mistakes. Otherwise, the teens will make much bigger more serious mistakes as adults.
We have plans for several more adult programs and when those are complete, we will be able to begin work on programs for youth.
Q. How to escape from the debt trap from the Biblical perspective?
A. As I mentioned earlier, we must recognize that God is the creator of the world and owner of all things. In Genesis 1:29 God gave us “dominion” over all things. Dominion does not include ownership. So the first step is to recognize God’s ownership in all that we possess.
We must also learn to be content with all that we have. Man’s secular economy seeks to breed discontentment; that we will never be satisfied because we still don’t own the next greatest, biggest, best object that is currently being advertised. Even St. Paul, as great an Apostle as he was, had to learn to be content as he explained to the Philippians (4:11-13). “…for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” We need to be more like St. Paul; to be content with all that we have and then to recognize that God doesn’t want us to be the slaves of debt. St. Paul expressed this sentiment in his First letter to the Corinthians (7:23), “You were purchased at a price; do not become slaves of men.” When we are in debt, we are definitely slaves of men.
One last thought on debt. When we have debt it is almost impossible for us to answer God’s call to “go there and perform this task.” We can’t go because we must stay and work our job in order to pay our debt. One of the beautiful results of what we are called to teach through Compass Catholic Ministries is that those who persevere, those who are faithful, will eventually be able to answer God’s call. They won’t have any debt; they will have saved enough money to support themselves without need for a paycheck; they can work in God’s Kingdom to the benefit of all.
Some who have eliminated their debt and saved their money may feel more comfortable staying at their jobs and taking Christ with them to their workplace, evangelizing those around them. With their savings intact these people can use their earnings to help further God’s work in major ways throughout their community and even globally.
Q. What would you suggest to business leaders who want to manage their businesses in God’s way?
A. Just as you can’t leave God out of your financial lives, you can’t leave God out of your business life. The same verses that apply to you personally also apply to you corporately. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This doesn’t say do everything for the glory of God except in business, it says do everything for the glory of God. So this is a prime message for every businessperson.
Debt can destroy a business just as quickly as it can destroy personal finances, so a Godly business person will manage their debt carefully and keep it to a minimum in order to maintain the strength of the business.
Another area that the Bible speaks clearly on is the area of honesty and integrity.
“I know, my God, that you put hearts to the test and that you take pleasure in integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17) “Whoever walks honestly walks securely, but one whose ways are crooked will fare badly.” (Proverbs 10:9) We see too many headlines today about business leaders who have been brought down because of their dishonesty and lack of integrity.
There are many books written on business management, but the oldest and best of them all is the Bible.
Compass Catholic Ministries is 501c(3) organization. Learn more about Compass Catholic Ministries.
Maciej Lobza, RFA, MSc, BSc is president of the Works of Christian Business Foundation and Catholic Business Club in Poznan. He is a Ph.D. student in the Department of International Finance at Poznan University of Economics in Poznan, Poland, where he also teaches international corporate finance and international finance at the university. He has recently become an entrepreneur in the field of financial consultancy and financial innovation, establishing the company Innovativance Global Services Sp. z o.o.. He belongs to several U.S.-based professional organizations, including the Academy of International Business and the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. He also serves as Advocate at his local council of Knights of Columbus and chair of the council at the Wiecej Poznania Foundation in Poznan.