How You Can Help People’s Money Worries

With energy bills tripling since last year, and inflation forecast to top 18% in early 2023, many people in our churches and communities are struggling to make ends meet. The rise in interest rates also means that those who have made purchases with credit or have substantial mortgages may have to work hard to keep up with repayments. Money problems are a common cause of anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and relationship difficulties. So, helping people to feel more in control of their finances is an important aspect of our pastoral responsibilities to them.

It is also a way we can lovingly serve our neighbours. Even without the resources to ease these financial pressures, we can offer a safe space to talk about money worries, and point people to safe and trusted sources of help.

Talking about money

There are plenty of taboos around talking about money, particularly in a church setting. The shame of struggling financially or being in debt can also make it hard for people to seek help. But there are tools which can help start these conversations, including:

You don’t need to be an expert to start a conversation in your church about money, as long as you know where to refer people on to (such as the organisations and resources in the list below). But, to dispel the shame some people may feel about their money issues, it might be helpful for the person leading the conversation to be open about any experience of debt or financial stress they may have had. That can help avoid people feeling judged or patronised.

Budgeting and money management courses

If you want to go beyond one-on-one conversations, there are two ready-made courses you can run in your church:

If you’re connected to a local primary school, you could also suggest they partner with the Just Finance Foundation to deliver financial education to pupils. They also have free resources for families to help children learn about money.

Advice on debt and financial support

If, as you open up conversations about becomes clear that someone needs more support or specialist advice, here are some places you can point them towards.

The Money Helper website includes a directory of online and telephone debt advice services. By typing in your postcode, you can also find your nearest debt advice centre for a face-to-face meeting.

As well as debt advice, Citizens Advice can help with issues relating to benefits, work, housing, immigration, and the legal system. They have a lot of advice on each topic online, but you can also visit one of their branches across Leicester and Leicestershire. There are currently 5 CAP (Christians Against Poverty) centres within Leicester and Leicestershire – you can find your nearest one by typing your postcode here.

Other tools and helpful sources of advice include:

Credit, loans and borrowing

One reason why it is important for churches to be safe places to talk about money is that there are more predatory individuals and organisations ready to step in with harmful advice and ‘solutions’. With interest rates rising and buy-now-pay-later payment methods increasingly popular with online consumers, it is especially important for people to have a good grasp of how loans and credit works and which financial products to avoid.

  • Loan sharks and illegal lenders will certainly be looking to profit from the cost of living crisis. The website Stop Loan Sharks can help you spot a loan shark and report one if you think you or someone you know has borrowed from one.

  • The MoneyHelper website gives an overview of different credit options and which situations they are best suited for

  • Finding Finance offers a directory of responsible finance providers – the credit union local to the Diocese is Clockwise

  • Fair for You offers an online method of purchasing furniture and household appliances through a negotiated loan. There is a cost involved, but in some circumstances, it could be cheaper and less risky than other loan options.

Starting a conversation about money might take you out of your comfort zone. But, with more than 1 in 5 people in the UK living in poverty (including 4.3 million children), it’s a topic we can’t afford not to address.

First published on: 7th November 2022
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