By Ron Dorner
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:7-8)
The current economic environment has placed serious financial stress on families. Few churches are equipped to give guidance or help to members in financial difficulties.
Galatians 6:10 says “While we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The current economic situation provides our opportunity. As believers, we should concentrate on the household of faith, not because we should neglect others, but because church resources will be greatly strained.
The church that cares for its congregation during difficult financial times will truly be a beacon to the world. John 13:35 sums it up. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In times like these, each church’s leadership must prepare a plan and prepare its people. The best laid plan will fail if the people are not willing to submit to what the Lord has in store.
Teach people what God expects. Few realize that the failure to spend wisely in the past is sin. There may be a need for repentance and a willingness to submit to the principles of financial counseling to become a responsible provider for one’s family.
While the concepts of financial management are being taught, church leadership should implement an action plan. Explain the plan to the congregation so everyone will know what to expect.
A Hard Times Plan (HTP) might address several areas:
– the type of help to be given,
– the resources available, and
– the operation of the HTP through a committee.
Type of help for members
Two types of assistance could be offered – money management assistance and items to meet physical needs. Each individual requesting assistance should be interviewed and be willing to have the committee analyze his or her income and expenses before help is provided. This assures that the Lord’s resources are not wasted. If it is found that the members requesting help are not good money managers, they should get only temporary help. Those willing to receive counsel and change their spending or work habits could continue to receive assistance.
During an extended economic downturn, most churches will find that they have very limited monetary resources. Giving may decrease during these times, yet the demand for assistance may be at its highest.
Resources include not only money, but services, food donations, land availability for gardens, and used clothing, to name a few. Individuals can get along with much less money if they can get assistance in other ways. People who are out of work may have time on their hands. Take advantage of that by creating a system where labor can be bartered among members.
Requiring work eliminates many needs. Create an active job networking system within the local church.
It should be obvious that when evaluating resources, it will take the efforts of the entire body to get a good “stockpile” of resources.
Your church family will feel loved and have a great sense of relief if your resources list is long and covers many types of needs.
This is a vital part of the HTP. A step-by-step procedure should be required for all who apply for assistance. The use of application forms will insure fair treatment. Include any recommendations of the committee on the form, which is signed by all members. Keep all forms to facilitate future applications by the same individual.
I recommend that the committee consist of at least three church members. Keep the group as small as practical. A large church may have more committee members, but might use only three per evaluation. Select individuals for this group who are mature, faithful, and willing to make hard decisions.
Feedback is important. Regularly report the aggregate amount of assistance given, without names, including the number of members assisted and resources distributed (amount of money, jobs found, used clothing dispensed, etc.).
This article comes from a love of the church and my desire to see her shine for Christ as never before. I believe that this economic downturn will be protracted. My prayer is that those reading this, especially pastors, will not see it as a complex and difficult thing to accomplish. Instead it is something that can be implemented with much prayer and wisdom from God.
Ron Dorner is director of Biblical Money Management. BMM has been helping believers handle their finances and estate planning since 1984. Online counseling is available at www.BiblicalMoneyManagement.com.