In David versus Goliath fashion, Cory and Sarah Mizell, members at the Downtown Campus of Houston’s First, are not yet 30 years old but have been assisting people of all ages in conquering a most formidable foe: financial bondage.
As lead volunteer consultants in the Julianna Poor Memorial Counseling Center’s Financial Consulting Ministry, Cory and Sarah and their team equip others with a customized plan for financial freedom. The plan includes biblical wisdom, tried and true principles the Mizells themselves have adopted, and a blueprint for establishing new habits that promote order, peace and stewardship. And best of all — consulting is free for Houston’s First members and non-members alike.
Cory and Sarah began dating while attending college in their home state of New Mexico. A desire to learn more about managing finances led them to take a 12-week Crown Financial class on biblical stewardship and money management. “Crown lit a fire under us,” said Sarah. “All the other members of the class were older and many of them said, ‘We wish somebody had taught us about this earlier.’” Shortly after, Sarah and Cory began leading Crown classes.
Sarah’s painful memory of her dad’s distress after a disastrous tech stock investment played a major role in fueling her desire to help others put their financial houses in order. Her dad and mom had tried to be good stewards in funding college for four children as well as their own retirement, but the tech bubble burst in 2001 and their entire investment was lost. The devastating financial blow to her family stoked the fire for ministry. Sarah led her parents through Crown in 2007. “God provided for them and strengthened their relationship as they walked together through that difficult time,” she said. “Now empty nesters, my parents were able to help us all through college, pay off debt and prepare for their future.”
Cory and Sarah married in 2009 and put down roots at Houston’s First. Within a couple of years, they were asked to become volunteer financial consultants. Sarah, who worked on the commodities trading floor at ConocoPhillips, and Cory, a chemical engineer, began working on advanced degrees and certifications, in part, to bolster their financial consulting ministry. Sarah earned her designation as a Certified Financial Planner at Rice University in early 2015. Cory completed his MBA three months later.
The Mizells meet with people who have very little and some who have much. “If a couple is young and doesn’t have much, we encourage them to develop good habits early,” said Sarah. “Problems tend to get magnified with bigger numbers.”
Several years ago, one young couple came to Cory and Sarah for financial consulting prior to getting married.“We began talking about marriage and I had some serious concerns about the significant debt load of student loans and credit cards he had,” said Dana*. They took the step to meet with the Mizells, who gave them a “Debt Snowball” worksheet and budgeting spreadsheets.
“It took a lot of humility for my (now) husband to be so open and transparent with strangers about his finances,” said Dana, “but Cory and Sarah were both extremely kind and non-judgmental.” As Dana sat in on the appointments, her own view of finances shifted in the process.
“I saw how I subconsciously trusted in money for my security and salvation,” said Dana. Since that time the couple married, and they have paid off more than $30,000 in credit card debt. Working on reducing his student loan debt is the next mountain to climb. “The Mizells provided us with sound advice and practical tools,” said Dana. “They helped us begin an open and frank dialogue about finances, which continues to serve us well.”
Teaching biblical precepts and wise stewardship principles are at the heart of their financial planning ministry. “We start by asking people what they want to accomplish,” said Sarah. “The size of the budget doesn’t matter. It’s not about being good with big numbers, but being excellent in small habits.”
Cory and Sarah also work with couples that are more than 20 years older than themselves. The Mizells begin by quickly acknowledging the “elephant in the room.” Before long, age becomes a non-issue when clients see the wisdom, care and professionalism with which they approach financial consulting.
The couple never asks others to do what they themselves would not. Cory and Sarah adopted biblical principles to live by a budget. While tithing on their gross salary during MISSION 1:8, the two year generosity initiative at Houston’s First, and giving to other ministries, Sarah left her job at ConocoPhillips to be a stay-at-home mom to their newborn, Cooper, now a year-and-a-half old. The couple took a 60 percent pay cut.
Regardless of one’s motivation, getting finances in order offers tangible and, in some cases, eternal benefits. Paying off credit card debt, student loans, funding retirement or giving to favorite charities have become the legacies of those who took the first step toward financial freedom. These abilities are a by-product of a changed heart and changed habits.
“To begin, people must decide if their standard of living is worth the stress,” said Cory. “The question is do they want to trade what they want most in life for what they want now?”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
Financial Consultants available through the Counseling Center are volunteers; they are not paid by the church and there is no fee for their services. Visit the Financial Consulting page to read about the team of consultants and to find various financial resources. Individuals and couples interested in meeting with a volunteer financial consultant should contact Cory & Sarah Mizell at HFBC.Financial@gmail.com about taking the next step.