Do we have a responsibility to financially aid my BIL?


#1

My BIL has never been a real “go-getter” in terms of his career, but is a steady, loyal worker. He’s been working the same job answering phones in customer relations for the past 15 years, making about $35K per year, enough to support his wife and 2 kids but with very little wiggle room in terms of savings in our area of the country. They have almost no money in savings. About 5 years ago, he decided to get his MBA at a local college. We were all excited by this step- he took classes evenings and weekends, took some minimal loans, and completed his degree about a year ago. Since obtaining the degree, however, he hasn’t applied for any new jobs or made any efforts to advance his position within his company. When my DH asked him why, he said that he realized that business “wasn’t for him” and he felt unfulfilled by it. Instead, he said, he is now considering entering the seminary (he is a non-denominational Protestant, we are Catholic). He’s had somewhat of a resurgence in his faith the last few years and has been volunteering with his church youth group, but that’s been the extent of his pastoring experience. He’s never been a deacon, elder, or had any kind of leadership role within the church. Aside from the fact that I think he is not the best fit for the ministry, I’m worried because he is talking about borrowing $30K in student loans per year, putting the kids on Medicaid, dropping themselves (the parents) from any kind of health insurance, and relying on food banks in order to do this- and at the end of it, he has no guarantee of a job. If he does find a pastorate, the starting salaries are close to, if not lower than, what he currently makes and he will have up to $90K in student debt. A job would also likely require him to sell his current house at a loss (he bought at the height of the housing boom) to move elsewhere.

Here’s where I’m conflicted: my DH and I have been blessed with financial success, both as a result of our hard work and some dumb luck. We make easily 5 times his salary and could afford to pay for his tuition without impacting anything other than saving for our kids’ college funds. We could pay for their groceries so that they wouldn’t have to rely on the food bank. But should we? I would hate to see them struggling so hard and especially their kids going without, but on the other hand I think this seminary thing is a monumentally bad idea. What if, five years from now, they need to file for bankruptcy? How much help is appropriate to give?

And, FWIW, my DH has already talked to him, explained his concerns, and expressed that he thinks this is not the best use of BIL’s time or money. BIL says he feels “called” to this and doesn’t want to worry about money- that will take care of itself, he believes, if he is following God’s will.


#2

Where is his wife in all of this? Is she on board with this ministry move? Is that the life she wants to live? Is she willing to work outside the home to make extra money? You haven't mentioned anything about her.

People make choices all the time. These are their choices to make. They don't seem to be asking for help. They don't seem concerned about the finances. Maybe they have no problem with downsizing their lives, homes, and material needs/wants in order to make this happen.

I don't know, I am just wondering why you are in the middle of this when it doesn't seem they have asked for anything.

Are you just wondering if you should gift them money because you can?

I don't think anyone can answer that question but you. We all have limited resources, and we all make choices and bear the opportunity costs. If you want to give him $90K instead of giving it to your kids (or their future college costs), charity, etc, then go ahead and do it. If you feel the money could be *better *used saving for your own children or giving to a worthy charity, then do that.

I don't think you are *obligated *to financially assist someone in pursuing goals they *decided *on knowing full well they cannot afford to do it. They have not had some sort of calamity befall them-- a natural disaster, illness, etc.

To me this is an internal family decision on his and his wife's part. There are lots of people who do go into ministry work and live on a shoestring and are fine with that. Maybe they are those people.


#3

I don’t think you are required to help, but if you can it might be nice. I also say “good for him!” in doing what he believes God is calling him to do.


#4

I don’t advise loaning any money you are not willing to lose or giving any money unless you can give it without a care in the world as to how it is used or the outcome of it’s use. Any money with emotional strings attached to it is more likely than not to lead to hurt feelings, resentment, or even worse.


#5

[quote="momor, post:4, topic:203942"]
I don't advise loaning any money you are not willing to lose or giving any money unless you can give it without a care in the world as to how it is used or the outcome of it's use. Any money with emotional strings attached to it is more likely than not to lead to hurt feelings, resentment, or even worse.

[/quote]

I agree with this too. If you are going to hellp them, I'd write the money off.


#6

I think he's had a call to be a husband and a father and he needs to do that first before starting any more ventures. In that way, by completeing what he has started, he'll be a good role model if and when he ever becomes a pastor.

The man is well educated. There is no reason for him taking assistance from the public dole. That is for people who really need it.

I'd stay out of it. If you want to give a gift, give them generous gift cards for food when there is an occassion.


#7

If his family is onboard with him going into ministry, and they're willing to downsize their lives to do it, I would say don't stand in the way. However, going $90K in debt to make it happen is a very bad idea, especially with what he is going to be paid even if he is successful finding a job afterwords.

I don't know if he would be convinced by this, but why not suggest he put that MBA to use in putting himself through seminary? It will be a sacrifice, but he'll be imitating St. Paul who worked as a laborer to support his ministry.

You could quote him some scripture passages backing up this suggestion, especially if he is a sola scriptura type. Here's a few I could find:

Debt should be avoided:
(Romans 13:8) "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another"
(Proverbs 22:7) "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."

Paul supported himself in his ministry and wants us to imitate him in this way:
(2 Thessalonians 7-9) "For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us."


#8

[quote="smallcat, post:1, topic:203942"]
My BIL has never been a real "go-getter" in terms of his career, but is a steady, loyal worker. He's been working the same job answering phones in customer relations for the past 15 years, making about $35K per year, enough to support his wife and 2 kids but with very little wiggle room in terms of savings in our area of the country. They have almost no money in savings. About 5 years ago, he decided to get his MBA at a local college. We were all excited by this step- he took classes evenings and weekends, took some minimal loans, and completed his degree about a year ago. Since obtaining the degree, however, he hasn't applied for any new jobs or made any efforts to advance his position within his company. When my DH asked him why, he said that he realized that business "wasn't for him" and he felt unfulfilled by it. Instead, he said, he is now considering entering the seminary (he is a non-denominational Protestant, we are Catholic). He's had somewhat of a resurgence in his faith the last few years and has been volunteering with his church youth group, but that's been the extent of his pastoring experience. He's never been a deacon, elder, or had any kind of leadership role within the church. Aside from the fact that I think he is not the best fit for the ministry, I'm worried because he is talking about borrowing $30K in student loans per year, putting the kids on Medicaid, dropping themselves (the parents) from any kind of health insurance, and relying on food banks in order to do this- and at the end of it, he has no guarantee of a job. If he does find a pastorate, the starting salaries are close to, if not lower than, what he currently makes and he will have up to $90K in student debt. A job would also likely require him to sell his current house at a loss (he bought at the height of the housing boom) to move elsewhere.

[/quote]

He got the MBA and decides he is unhappy with it, how does he know he won't be unhappy being a minister? It's tough work. If he's running away from his life now, he will be just as unhappy as a pastor. He needs to learn that all vocations are called to holiness and that he can serve the Lord just as well, or rather, far better by doing what the Lord calls him to do. Devotion, as St. Francis de Sales says, sweetens everything. If he already dislikes his phone job, then he might as well start a business job which pays more, which he'll dislike anyway.

Going to be a minister at this point is equivalent to forgetting his vocation to marriage and fatherhood. He is already permanently vowed to being a husband and father. Anything which conflicts with that is out of the question-- and it sounds like this would seriously do that.

We make easily 5 times his salary and could afford to pay for his tuition without impacting anything other than saving for our kids' college funds.

Do your kids a favor and save for their college funds instead. You have a higher obligation to help your kids than your brother in law, and you definitely have a higher obligation to help your kids get a college education than to help your brother in law get an 'education' to be a Protestant minister (which may not be a very serious education, depending on where he is going anyway-- and regardless, will be an education rife with deep theological errors).

We could pay for their groceries so that they wouldn't have to rely on the food bank. But should we? I would hate to see them struggling so hard and especially their kids going without, but on the other hand I think this seminary thing is a monumentally bad idea. What if, five years from now, they need to file for bankruptcy? How much help is appropriate to give?

Perhaps you could make anonymous contributions if it comes to that, if you're worried about them becoming dependent on you.

And, FWIW, my DH has already talked to him, explained his concerns, and expressed that he thinks this is not the best use of BIL's time or money. BIL says he feels "called" to this and doesn't want to worry about money- that will take care of itself, he believes, if he is following God's will.

For any vocation one must have three signs fulfilled: one must be able, willing and free. If any of these is lacking, the vocation is lacking. He probably thinks, like many Protestants do, that it's mostly about inclination. After all, if you want to do it, it's the Spirit moving you to do it. But this is dangerous. You also have to be free to do it. That includes taking care of financial and familial responsibilities. If he cannot reasonably shoulder these responsibilities then he simply isn't 'free' to do it, just as a man who has to care for his elderly mother isn't 'free' to enter the seminary, despite being able and willing to do so.

You'll have to remind him that when he took his marriage vows that they take precedence over all his career paths or options. One can follow God perfectly while married, so it's no excuse for him at this point.

-Rob


#9

Hmm... It appears your question is whether you should support 2 families for the next few years. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but I would advise your BIL to volunteer in his church, first. Perhaps you can make an agreement with him where he tries out ministry in his church for a certain time (2-3 years?) and you would subsidize his education if he still feels the "call." There should be a defined, agreed upon minimum level of activity (e.g. lead 2 concurrent Bible studies, serve on one or more church committees, etc. and verify his results with his pastor).

I am currently facing a less complex but no less difficult situation. My own brother lower income and possibly financially irresponsible and has some financial emergency every few months. We are financially comfortable but it pains us when he asks for help since we think he should be able to attend to his finances. His current emergency is that he has no electricity. :eek:


#10

I'm coming from a slightly different perspective and one kind of similar to your bil. My husband (and I as what is required by the wife) are in the deaconate formation program in our diocese. We have children, we are spread thin financially (but, somehow are able to pay all the bills each month), and I am 100% supportive of my husband's involvement in the program (yes, he gets an education but also has 5 years of it that involves constant discernment both on his part and the program directors part). Granted, we only pay for the texts that are needed, but the time commitment definitely is challenging since I work weekdays, my husband weekends. He has to pass on some good paying gigs in order to go to class. The first year was a challenge, but I am learning to trust God more.

Has your bil thought about paying as he goes with class (taking one or two per semester instead of 3 or 4)? Yes, it will take longer, but it allows for the family not to go into debt and increases the discernment process. That would be a good compromise to maybe recommend.


#11

[quote="momor, post:4, topic:203942"]
I don't advise loaning any money you are not willing to lose or giving any money unless you can give it without a care in the world as to how it is used or the outcome of it's use. Any money with emotional strings attached to it is more likely than not to lead to hurt feelings, resentment, or even worse.

[/quote]

Exactly. Me myself, unless BIL lost his job suddenly and needed money just to survive, I wouldn't give any money. But I might look to see about other ways I could help, such as babysitting or having them over for a regular weekday meal or something. There are plenty of other ways to help out family members that don't involve any exchange of money.


#12

Where is his wife in all of this? Is she on board with this ministry move? Is that the life she wants to live? Is she willing to work outside the home to make extra money? You haven't mentioned anything about her.

She is on board with this. She has a small side business selling homemade crafts, but it doesn't bring in more than a couple of hundred dollars a year. She will most likely not work outside the home because if they move forward with this plan, she will homeschool their children (public schools are awful in their part of town and they can't afford private school).

I don't know, I am just wondering why you are in the middle of this when it doesn't seem they have asked for anything.

Are you just wondering if you should gift them money because you can?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm wondering. No, they haven't asked for anything yet- but I would not be surprised if they do- and even if they don't, I guess I feel somewhat guilty living comfortably while my nephews eat from food pantries and their parents don't even have health coverage :eek:. I don't want to subsidize what I feel to be a bad decision (particularly when it involves theological error, as someone mentioned), but I don't want the kids to suffer either.

He got the MBA and decides he is unhappy with it, how does he know he won't be unhappy being a minister? It's tough work. If he's running away from his life now, he will be just as unhappy as a pastor. He needs to learn that all vocations are called to holiness and that he can serve the Lord just as well, or rather, far better by doing what the Lord calls him to do. Devotion, as St. Francis de Sales says, sweetens everything. If he already dislikes his phone job, then he might as well start a business job which pays more, which he'll dislike anyway.

I am worried about this, too. He seems to have a rather naive approach to work. He honestly thought that his current employer would give him a raise and possibly a promotion simply for being awarded an MBA, without any change in effort or motivation on his part. I'm afraid now that getting the seminary degree is another way for him to try to escape work he's unhappy with and he's using the spirituality aspect- God is "calling him to ministry"- to excuse (what I see as) his financial irresponsibility. I feel uncomfortable telling him "God has not called you to this!!" because how do I really know? I know that what God asks of us sometimes involves sacrifice, but I don't know about putting your family's welfare in jeopardy....


#13

He sounds selfish to me. Why would he put his family through all of that? Take the seminary out of hte picture and look at it this way. Say that he wants to go to college to become a widget maker and the widget making school he has choosen to go to cost $90K and he will only make about $30K when he graduates. Would you support him going to widget school?

Like others have said, there are other smarter ways for him to lead others at church. It is not fair for someone as educated as this guy to live off of public tax funded programs.


#14

The wife's on board with this. They have made the choice for her to stay home and to try to game the system with food subsidies, Medicaid, etc. Well, that's their choice.

If you want to do something nice for your nieces/nephews, buy them warm coats for winter as Christmas gifts, give them money for birthdays, and maybe establish some sort of savings account that you can turn over to them when they are 18 (but check with a tax advisor).


#15

He is going to $30,000 each year for three years. Who would give him a loan for this? Does he offer any kind of collaterol? There's no way for him to pay this back. Dare I say it? Is this something the taxpayer will be picking up on?


#16

[quote="1ke, post:14, topic:203942"]
If you want to do something nice for your nieces/nephews, buy them warm coats for winter as Christmas gifts, give them money for birthdays, and maybe establish some sort of savings account that you can turn over to them when they are 18 (but check with a tax advisor).

[/quote]

great idea. Perhaps set up college accounts for them instead of regular savings accounts, though. It's not the children's fault the conditions they are raised in. Be sure to not badmouth their parents. Maybe you could advise them in financial responsibility when handing over their accounts.


#17

If you want to help with some food here and there I think that would be appropriate if he chooses to do this. However if you choose to support him you are also saying, by default, that the Church is no different that a protestant Church which is not the truth.

I'm not saying that Protestant can not find salvation or anything like that, however as Catholics we need to be promoting the fullness of Truth, not a watered down version of it.

I was almost a protestant minister but went to college to become a Psychiatrist, deferred Medical School and just never went back. In all honesty I would love to teach Religion or go back and become a Pediatrician however I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and 4 wonderful sons. I have a great job that pays well but truly I would rather do something else... but that's not an option right now. Rather than complaining I want to change I try to thank God often for his many blessings! (including leading me home to Rome).

Your BIL has been blessed with a family and the ability to learn what he needs to move up in business. So what if it isn't his favorite thing, churches need lay ministers and volunteers as well. IMHO he needs to work to take care of his family and drop this foolishness about putting his wife and kids in jeopardy.

I don't pretend to know the will of God for everyone else, but I do believe that when God blesses us we need do our best to be thankful for those blessings and take care of them.

Joe


#18

[quote="aicirt, post:15, topic:203942"]
He is going to $30,000 each year for three years. Who would give him a loan for this? Does he offer any kind of collaterol? There's no way for him to pay this back. Dare I say it? Is this something the taxpayer will be picking up on?

[/quote]

Actually many places will give out graduate student loans for this amount. (In fact the government is doing it now that they took over the student loan industry). Schools will generally give you an estimate on all school costs (tuition, books, fees, etc.) and living costs (housing, food, misc., etc.) and the grad plus loan system will let you take out up to this estimated cost (minus any other loans, scholarships, and grants). There might be an dollar limit, but I have not reached it taking out 30K for law school every year for 3 years.


#19

I would direct my help towards the kids: maybe by purchasing their school wardrobes and school supplies. Or, maybe also paying for health insurance for the parents. That's a scarey thing to be without health insurance.


#20

What I'm curious about is where this "calling" is coming from.
I'm aware of several Protestant denominations that give out vocational tests to their volunteers. These are not unlike the tests we take in High School to see what we wan to be when we grow up. The major difference being that the church voc. tests tell people where they can be most helpful. It seems, if the person taking them is remotely educated, then they get slated as being "called" to ministry.

Regardless if this is the way your brother was "called", discernment is key.

Are you being called by God to donate your money to this arena? You can not MAKE your BIL and sister live your lifestyle. There are MANY better ways to give back to God than supporting what sounds like to you to be a money pit. Jesus tells us to view all humanity as our brothers in God. If God truly called him to this, God will provide. If not, you should save your money to help when they REALLY need it. Or donate it to where God is calling you to do so. Look at why God loved Abel so much better than Cain.

Can you suggest that he actually talk to social services BEFORE he just throws himself on the mercy of the government? I have a feeling he and his wife have no idea how much pain this entails. Also, many, MANY doctors do not accept Medicaid. And even the ones that do get their Medicaid quota filled up fast. We're not talking waiting lists here, we're talking NO DOCTORS. The ONLY alternative is to go to the ER for everything and plan on spending the entire day in that germ-ridden room because they triage Medicaid patients differently also. What person would choose to do this to their children? Go to SS yourself. It's ugly.

At the end of the day others can't advise you in the ways that God wants you to live. Pray, pray, pray for discernment and wisdom. God does provide those also.

Blessings.


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