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How to build a debt-free legacy for my family and future generations?
Building A Debt-Free Legacy:
An Interview with Bill and Maureen Sitter
by Jason Cobb
In 2003 take your finances to a new level, Bill and
Maureen Sitter deliver a balanced and biblical approach
to debt free living. This past month I interviewed the
authors of the tremendous resource, Bill and Maureen
shared with me the history, ministry and impact of their
course Financial Freedom In 7 Weeks Plus. Debt free
living is possible. SAWorship.com considers it a privilege
to share with you life changing principles that can
change the pattern of your financial life forever. With
the resource: Financial Freedom in 7 Weeks Plus, below
is the interview that took place at SAWorship.com headquarters
in San Antonio.
give our audience some background on how you and Maureen
got started with financial counseling and training,
and what led you to publish your book: Financial Freedom
in 7 Weeks Plus.
Bill: Over ten years ago,
I was invited to be a co-leader along with an Elder
Wayne Gordon at Eagle's Nest Christian Fellowship. We
started teaching using some Christian finance materials
that were available. We did some counseling through
the church that really gave me a chance to plug into
the area of need in the body of Christ that's exciting
to me - helping people get freedom in the area of finances
and get out of debt bondage. The more I studied, and
the more we taught and counseled, the more this excited
us. We started using fairly large classes at the church,
conducting those two to three times a year, but that
really wasn't producing the fruit that we wanted to
see. We observed people getting excited about the classes,
but we weren't seeing lasting changes in their life.
So we realized that some kind of a small group program
was needed, to really drive the ideas home to people
who had a real need and serious interest in changing.
The number of things that came together in God's plan
was amazing. First, I had an opportunity to help another
global ministry start writing a finance program. Then
Maureen and I were finally released to write the complete
book, on our own, and that was very exciting and humbling.
The book, Financial Freedom in 7 Weeks Plus is a product
of work that Maureen and I have done together over a
period of about five years, to produce a stand alone
text book, workbook, and leader's guide, all in one.
Financial Freedom in 7 Weeks Plus can be used by a church
and we feel the course works best in a small group environment.
This book can be used by individuals or couples, on
their own. However, ideally it's used in a small group
program, under the covering of a local church. We are
not trying to create a separate ministry; this book
is provided as a resource to local churches. The local
church raises up their own leaders and they use the
material in the book as a teaching guide and a small
"focus group" workbook. They have everything
they need. No other resource is required, and the book
provides instructions on how to train their own leaders.
That's the evolution, and we published around Christmas
time, in 2002. We are now, as self-publishers, really
getting this material out so that churches and other
ministries can learn about it. The good news is that
we have been using and refining the material in one
form or another for over five years. We have a lot of
testimonies, in the book and on the web site, that we
know will excite people, because these are people who
have been through this material and have had very good
What is different about this book, and the 7-week course,
as compared to other resources available?
Maureen: We use spiritual
warfare. We do not know of others who use it, or use
it as much. We identify the devil as the thief, per
John 10:10, and we go after him as you'd go after any
Bill: We really are trying
to put Christians in position to do battle; in other
words this is a fight, a fight to get it right in each
area of our lives. The good news is God gave us a manual
on how to do that, The Bible, and it didn't stop being
effective 2000 years ago, it's relevant for today. As
Maureen said, we want people to understand that you
start by recognizing that everything we have came from
God. God owns it all! Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us that
God is the one who gives us our abilities, skills, and
gifts, everything came from Him. We have to recognize,
if we are a wonderful superstar athlete or if we are
a blue-collar worker at a factory, that whatever skills
we have, to do what we are doing, come from God. If
we recognize that, then that's good. We start each of
the 7 weekly focus group sessions by praising God and
doing battle against Satan, that's one of the big distinctions.
The other is that we teach that tithing is just the
start of the giving plan not the end of it. We want
people to have a heart for God so that as they read
through the Psalms, Proverbs, Hebrews or many of books
of the Bible, they'll see reinforcement for giving offerings
and alms beyond the tithe.
Maureen: We usually give
focus group members a large play dollar bill that has
a heart on it, then another one with the word God in
the heart. This encourages people to examine their own
hearts to see whether God or money is first in our hearts.
The whole point is that God wants our hearts, so it's
all about the attitude of the heart. He has to do the
heart surgery, we can teach it but God has to do the
work, and He does it well. It is not effective to counsel
or train one half of a married couple, it just doesn't
bear much fruit. It's great that at least one person
from the marriage wants to get it right; but in terms
of finance, and other major decisions, God talks about
one flesh. We have to come together as a married couple,
if we are not in agreement in the area of finances,
it's not going to work. In the book and in the weekly
homework assignments, we ask married couples to do the
homework together. For individuals they should get an
accountability partner to help them; it works better
and this can be a friend or family member.
would a church or ministry organize a 7-week focus group?
And, is there a set of instructions for churches to
Bill: The book is written
so an individual can use it, anybody can pick it up.
A couple that does not have access to a church, maybe
they are living in a remote area, they can use this
program and they can get good results. It was designed
this way. It's really most effective when used in a
church or a ministry where they actually adopt this
as a workbook for small groups. Essentially the church
community develops their own leaders and assistant leaders;
we use the term Leaders In Training. We have leaders
training other leaders under the local church's covering,
training people who want to be in a small group environment.
Probably 14 to 15 people in a group is a nice group
size, and it might meet at a home, which we prefer,
or you could have it a church or other remote location,
as long as it's private. The leaders are committed to
leading the group for seven consecutive weeks with weekly
homework and they present the 7 weekly group teachings
from Chapters 1-7.
At the end of the seven-week course, there is an accountability
session. We ask people to complete this follow up session
within 45 days after completing the course. They meet
individually with their leaders to review their progress
and review their spending plan forms. A church can initiate
this program by contacting us. We would like them to
know as much as they can about the course, or look at
our web site. For out of town people, call us at our
toll free number 1-800-392-9410. If you are within the
City of San Antonio, you can call us at 210-651-5561.
We'd love to talk to pastors, adult education leaders,
or small group coordinators to help you get started
with this program in your area. We do this as a ministry;
this is not a business, and we feel that God has called
us to this. We want to help spread this material around.
We want the local church to be the one in control, I
believe pastors really need to know that.
We suggest that offerings be taken during the weekly
group sessions, the offerings should go wherever the
local church decides. The offering doesn't come to us.
How that all works is explained in the leader's section
of the book to include report forms, etc.
your book contrasts the world's view of "prosperity"
with God's view?
Bill: We start with the
understanding of what prosperity really is. I think
there has been a lot of confusion on the subject of
prosperity. A lot of people thought that if you wanted
some lavish gift, say a luxury car, or a bigger house
then all you had to do was "name it, and claim
it" in the name of Jesus. Not that these possessions
are bad, but God is not into lavishing us, just so we
can be lavished. We define prosperity the way I think
God views it. "Prosperity is having all the resources,
the talent, ability, skills, relationships, and money
we need to do everything God has called us to do."
That's the key, what God has called us to do, not what
we want to do, not what we feel like doing, not what
our neighbor is doing. But what God has called us to
do; for some people that's raising a family and providing
for them in a godly way, for other people it may be
missions, for other people it may be a career in business,
music or sports. We have the right to believe that He
will provide the resources we need. As long as we focus
on what God has called us to do, we are bound to stay
in balance. We must not get into greed nor should we
have a poverty mentality. The Bible is full of verses,
probably well over 2000 verses, that deal with money
in some way, to include giving, debt, and stewardship.
God obviously felt, in the Old and New Testament, that
teaching on finances is relevant for today. We start
with this enlightened understanding of prosperity, then
we plug-in God's principles on tithing, and giving,
debt repayment, planning and what we call the Spending
Plan. All of these concepts are reinforced through the
Word of God so we can stay in balance.
the flexible "spending plan" concept and how
it differs from a "budget".
Maureen: People learn
to make decisions on how they spend their money. Instead
of having a budget, the spending plan is not something
that's constricting them, but it is something that is
freeing them up. They record their debts and bills and
they project their family's needs. They decide how they
want to allocate their money. They are free to move
funds around, from category to category, it's flexible
and they are in control.
Bill: We have a lot of fun
in our half day seminars and with focus groups, because
Maureen will beep me with a little noisemaker if I use
the word "budget". We do not teach the word
budget, because the word budget sounds like a diet,
something that is imposed by other people. You get the
feeling that if you cross the line, that you have blown
the budget and you feel doomed. The whole concept of
the flexible-spending plan, is that individuals or couples
work through the workbook and build a complete financial
plan for their family. These are all simple forms, there
is no advanced math or college education required, no
knowledge of computers, and you can do this all with
a pencil. You learn how to record your debts, your assets,
your liabilities; how to prepare a simple balance sheet
and a net worth statement. Most couples, at first, think
they could never prepare a balance sheet and net worth
We also teach them how to develop a debt repayment
plan and how to analyze their expenses on a monthly
basis. I left out one key form, at the very beginning,
the Income and Biblical Giving form people record how
much they make, and how much they plan to give, then
we go from there. That's the first piece of the eight
forms in the basic spending plan. Finally, in week 7,
there are monthly cash flow forms. All these forms feed
one to the next, to the next. In the monthly cash flow
analysis they actually see whether they have money left
at the end of the month or month left at the end of
the money. We teach how to go back and rework plans
as a couple or as individuals or single parents with
kids. As Maureen said, the plan is flexible and it's
okay to move some money from one category to another.
This all comes together to make what we call the flexible
spending plan. The couple or individual or family is
God expects from us what He expects from a business,
for us to be in control and to look at all aspects of
our business as good stewards. I believe God expects
Bill and Maureen to be accountable just like a small
company; we use the term Bill and Maureen, Inc. There
is a mythical couple in the book, Bob and Mary Jones.
We use two examples to show how Bob and Mary were doing
things wrong and, in a year or so later, how they did
things right, after getting wisdom from the course.
This program gives people hope and easy examples to
follow. We want to make the course really simple, if
people say they forgot or that they had to miss a class,
the information is in the book. It's similar in a way
to the Bible, if you read the instructions the right
answers will always come out. We know it works now because
we have been testing this for five years, and we have
observed a lot of excellent results.
The final chapter, that we added to make it a 7-week
course, is called Keeping Track of God's Money; and
this is an important chapter. We found out that, on
paper, people sometimes estimated they were in good
financial shape, but in fact, at the end of the month,
they were in bad shape. The numbers in the monthly cash
flow box may indicated that they should have money left,
but it was not there. A lot of businesses have been
in that same predicament. If people don't have the money
they thought they should have, then where is it? The
final or revised plan ends up being accurate because
group members learn to readjust the plan and go forward.
This is not something that you do once in life and never
do it again. No, it is a life process.
you comment on successes from this training? (Any testimonials)?
Bill: We try to make the
seminar and our course fun; (the seminar is only a half
a day). The devil is trying to keep people in doom and
gloom. God has a good plan. People should get excited,
even at the early stage, when they face-up to their
debts and other obstacles, because they are starting
on the road to Financial Freedom. They are going to
get free if they stick with it.
Maureen came up with the "Breakthrough" form.
The first part of each weekly homework assignment is
to report on breakthroughs. Every week leaders hear
of pay raises, interest rates being cut, supernatural
increase, and so forth. That's why the first four pages
of the book are full of testimonies, and those are repeated
on our web site. We know there are going to be a lot
more new testimonies as more people are taking the course
right now. It's fun for us to see those testimonies
when people take the time to tell us how this course
has changed their lives. We are not surprised anymore
because we know God's Word is true.
Maureen: God changes hearts,
for example a husband in Houston, who was attending
a focus group, came to the group and gave his wife a
little jar with his credit cards all cut up. It was
a classic breakthrough example. Previously he had his
money and she had her money, they had separate checkbooks.
The husband was a big spender, but in Week 5 he gave
her his checkbook and this was a huge breakthrough.
Now both have cut up the credit cards and there is one
Bill: This man's wife
was visibly shaken; it was the first time in their whole-married
life that they agreed to put everything together. That
was so exciting to us because we knew then they were
on the road to success.
Maureen: He asked her
to write a check for the offering that night, she was
physically shaking with excitement.
Bill: She had a hard time
writing the check, before there was his checkbook and
her checkbook, now it was their checkbook.
Maureen: You could just
see the changes.
Bill: We don't have to
have the testimonials to know that this works. But they
sure do help, and they encourage people. When we do
a seminar, we like to have recent course grads come
to the seminar and present their testimony, and explain
how the changes have impacted their family. This means
a lot, it's one thing to have participated in the teaching,
but it's another thing to have reinforcement from people,
who are just like you and me, who have experienced success.
We have one couple on the Southside of San Antonio who
are now group leaders. They started with really no knowledge
of finances, they admitted that openly. They now have
taught several courses, and presented seminars, using
our material in other churches, locally and in Austin.
They have a wonderful testimony; they are on track not
only to be debt free, but to do a whole lot more.
In the 7 week course we actually lead people through
two different planning and goal setting exercises, so
they can align their goals, their values, and their
plans. We then get more specific and have them put a
five-year plan together, so they realize that financial
freedom does not happen overnight, it is a process.
It is okay to plan for your future; God gives us encouragement
and instruction to plan, that's rolled into this course
as well. Everything taught in this course is backed
up with scripture.
web site is www.debtfreelegacy.com. What's the significance
of the name?
Bill: As we were working
on the course we were working with another ministry
involved in marriages. One of the things we sensed strongly
was that it is great to help somebody become debt free.
The greatest reward is to see God blessing something,
that you had a hand in doing for Him, helping his people
become debt free. The real key is that God is a generational
God and if this course is just for us today, then that's
one thing. It's like salvation, if salvation is just
for us then that's fine, but it isn't really God's plan.
He wants our kids, our grandkids, our friends, and our
parents to catch this Vision of a debt free legacy.
We feel that www.debtfreelegacy.com is a great way to
say that all this isn't just about us, it's about getting
this right so we can train, teach and model this to
other people. Even if people are not yet comfortable
receiving the salvation message, they can see the reward
of a successful life, a godly life, even if they do
not understand it. If the world keeps seeing Christians
experience true success, a good attitude, contentment,
and being a good employee, a good boss, or a cheerful
giver, then people will want to know more. They'll ask,
what are you doing and how can I get that? We all admire
those things even if we don't want to admit it. The
very actions that we take, to change from an incorrect
legacy to a godly legacy, are going to pass on a bright
future to future generations. You can have an impact
on hundred's of people over your lifetime with out ever
knowing it, that is why our web site is called www.debtfreelegacy.com.
encouragement and hope can you give the readers of SAWorship.com?
Maureen: If people will
take responsibility and commit to taking this course,
to reading the book, and will apply what it instructs,
along with following the Lord, then they should get
out of debt.
Bill: God wants every
person to have a blueprint for accomplishing what God
has called them to do. We are trying to take God's Word,
put it into real simple 2003 terminology; this will
help the biblical principles come alive everyday. Whether
they want to use our book or use some other Godly source,
we want them to get a grip on the fact that part of
being a good Christian, a good person, good father or
mother, or family member is financial stewardship. It
is important to learn how to take care of God's money,
and to forget the term "my money", this term
does not exist because we are called to be stewards
of His resources. Psalm 50:10 makes it clear that God
owns everything. We're like the branch manager of a
bank, who does not own the bank but who stewards the
banks resources for the board of directors and the stockholders.
God wants us to be good branch managers. It's not hard,
the hardest part is deciding to make the change and
letting God be at the center of our hearts.
Be encouraged, becoming debt free is not unrealistic.
With the wisdom and power of God and a willingness to
change one's spending habits, becoming debt free can
be a reality. If you are struggling in the area of finances,
or you find yourself or family in a self-made financial
mess; I would recommend looking further into this course.
Consider bringing this course to your church. As a graduate
of this course, God can change your situation. Be willing
to renew your mind and act in obedience to God and His