Kelly Jennings has always known he wanted to help people.
“From very early on, I had an interest in finance and things of that nature and an interest in helping people,” Jennings recalled. “But I didn’t know who I was.”
Despite a proclivity toward good deeds and a host of genuine relationships, Jennings felt like something was missing. His interest in money and numbers brought Jennings to the University of Miami, where he played football and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance. His football career in Miami caught the attention of the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him as a cornerback.
During his time in Seattle, Jennings came to know Christ. His new identity as a believer changed his approach to helping others, especially when it came to his relationships with his teammates. After six years in the NFL, Jennings moved to Jackson, MS, to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling (MFTC) at RTS.
Jennings had never heard of RTS Jackson, but a mentor and friend encouraged him to look into the MFTC program. Jennings had always enjoyed learning about marriage through sermons and messages. Despite the nontraditional schedule of a football career, Jennings had always prioritized time with his family. The MFTC program seemed like a good match.
Jennings believes the calling of all believers is to use our God-given gifts to help those around us develop and use their own giftings.“Counseling allowed me to steward the intellectual and personal resources that God has given me,” said Jennings. Counseling also enabled Jennings to take on an active role in serving those around him. However, as Jennings worked with clients, he discovered that he had a hard time leaving his clients’ problems at the office—an essential boundary all counselors must have in order to maintain their personal wellbeing and effectiveness in helping clients. Eventually, Jennings decided to combine his financial skills with his heart for advising people through financial planning.
“Financial advising, is, in a sense, a more objective form of counseling,” Jennings explained. “We are often assisting clients to work through deeper underlying issues as we help them plan for the future.”
Jennings continues to refer to his work as stewardship. His calling, and, he believes, the calling of all believers, is to use our God-given gifts to help those around us develop and use their own giftings. He says, contentedly, “I get to help others discover how to best steward their resources when I steward my own resources.”
“When people think about stewardship, money typically comes to mind,” Jennings remarks. But the mission of Branning Wealth Management, Jennings’ current workplace, is “proactive planning in wise stewardship of all resources.”
In order to use all resources wisely, whether time, talent, or money, Jennings advises planning: “These are God-given gifts that we need to develop and use, not sit back and let dwindle.” However, even after making a plan, he believes that Christians need to stay open and obedient to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Jennings encourages Christians to give of their time, money, and other resources toward the sharing of the gospel locally, nationally, and beyond. Sometimes giving towards the Kingdom looks like volunteering at church, and other times it looks like giving money to specific ministries and organizations. One of the ways that Jennings himself furthers the Kingdom is by actively helping his wife, Fritzie, homeschool their five children.
“God will use $10 and God will use $10,000. Whatever God has entrusted you with, be a steward of it.”Wise stewardship also requires sorting through priorities. In order to be generous, one must prioritize generosity. When helping clients with their financial resources, Jennings recommends planning to give first, so that the rest of financial planning follows from that priority. However, he also encourages wisdom. If it comes down to putting gas in the car or food on the table, he reminds believers that “God sees and knows our hearts. That’s what matters.”
Reflecting on the biblical account of the widow with two copper coins (Mark 12:41–44; Luke 21:1– 4), Jennings remarked, “there’s a temptation to believe that a small amount doesn’t matter. But God will use $10 and God will use $10,000. Whatever God has entrusted you with [time and spiritual gifts included], be a steward of it.”
Jennings seems to embody the principles that he shares with clients. He has made plans—finance, football, counseling—while staying open to the Lord’s direction, which ultimately led him to a career field that fits him well. Jennings actively uses his personal and professional gifts to help others and seeks to advance the gospel through his time at work and at home.
Kelly Jennings is, indeed, a steward.