CTE News carries this article by Liz Mann of Credit Action about how churches can support people struggling with debt.
Money is a worry for many at the moment, 1,732 people are made redundant every day, VAT has increased and levels of personal debt remain high (£8,495 per household excluding mortgages). No community, inside or outside the church, is immune and the effects of financial problems can cause fear and shame, stress, ill-health and relationship breakdown.
Regardless of whether we ourselves have money problems, for Christians this is an opportunity both to review and recommit our own finances to God and to also demonstrate the compassionate, all-accepting heart of Jesus to those who find themselves in financial difficulty. Church groups have much to offer. They can bring hope to those trapped in financial despair and can play a powerful role in preventing others from getting into difficulties in the first place by teaching wise stewardship both within the church and in the wider, secular community around them. Responding to money issues doesn’t have to be complicated, even simple interventions can make a big difference.
Help people to get help
Over 200,000 unsolicited calls are made every day to consumers by fee charging debt management and loan companies. However, there are many excellent charities providing free, independent advice. Community Money Advice, Christians Against Poverty and Citizens Advice Bureaux provide face to face advice at centres across the country and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) and National Debtline both operate national telephone helplines. Your church could display posters for free services or make booklets, such as Credit Action’s ‘moneymanuals’, available to people.
Set up a money outreach ministry
Churches are well placed to provide one-to-one support to individuals with money issues. By doing so, we have the opportunity to follow Jesus’ example in proclaiming “good news to the poor” and “freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4 18). A number of churches have set up debt advice centres. This is a big commitment but there are two Christian charities, Community Money Advice (CMA) and Christians Against Poverty (CAP), who can help. With Christians Against Poverty, churches partner with CAP and support a CAP Debt Coach who works within the community. Community Money Advice supports churches in setting up their own, independent debt advice centres. The impact of a debt advice ministry can be life-changing for individuals who have been struggling under the burden of debt.
Another option is to set up a budget coaching service. Because budget coaches do not give debt advice, which heavily regulated, this can be a lighter undertaking. Budget coaches are volunteers who help individuals to prepare an accurate, realistic budget. Creating a budget enables people to regain control, shine a light on their finances, highlight areas of waste and lift fear of the unknown. After completing their budget, some individuals may still need specialist debt advice, which the budget coach might support them through, but the first, and therefore, hardest steps have been taken. Credit Action can provide Personal Budget Coach Training.
Develop wise and Godly attitudes to managing money
As well as responding to those in difficulty, we need to focus on prevention and to develop a Godly attitude towards money. Money is a significant factor in our daily lives – we cannot avoid it, so we must learn to use it wisely, to be generous and to prevent it from becoming our master (Matthew 6 24). This is both spiritual, remembering that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6 19), and practical, ensuring that we are good stewards of everything God has put in our care.
There are many great resources available for sermons and small groups available on the subject of managing money and giving (see some of the websites below). It is important that we learn how to manage money effectively. Only 26% of people have a budget that they follow regularly, yet this is the most effective way of keeping control of our finances. You can find budget planners to help you on line.
You might consider running budgeting workshops for your congregations or local community. These can be particularly effective if incorporated into other ministries and courses such as marriage preparation or parenting groups. There are resources and courses that you can use to do this, or book someone to come and run a workshop for you.
Useful links and resources:
Community Money Advice
Christians Against Poverty
Crown Financial Ministries
The Money Revolution
Consumer Credit Counselling Service