The Chinese word for "crisis" consists of two characters: one meaning "danger" and the other "opportunity." Certainly, these are dangerous economic times; but what of the new opportunities to which God is calling us? The following resources offer insights for helping to make sense of the current economic crisis and practical ideas for churches who are trying to build an economy that better resembles God's own. (For this compilation, we are especially grateful to Sojourners Magazine and the Institute for Policy Studies.)
Making Some Sense of the Current Financial Crisis
- "From Anxiety and Greed to Milk and Honey": Biblical faith invites us out of self-destruction toward God's generosity and abundance" - Walter Bruggemann's excellent biblical and theological analysis of the current economic crisis.
- "Talking Points: Economic Meltdown": From the Institute for Policy Studies, this "document is a series of talking points, in an easy-to-read question-and-answer format, on the key questions being discussed today about the global economic meltdown."
- "Bubbles, Bailouts, and Real Security" (video): Chuck Collins' (Institute for Policy Studies) December 7, 2008 sermon on making sense, and a way out, of the current economic crisis.
Strengthening Christ's "Body," Strengthening God's Economy
A few community-building resources for growing ministry within and beyond church walls in these difficult times
- "What can Wesleyans offer to ease economic anxiety?": a helpful article by Robin Russell
- Common Security Clubs (program & curriculum, FREE)
- "A place to come together to enhance our personal security in a rapidly changing world; to learn about the root causes of our economic and ecological challenges; to explore ways to increase our personal/economic security through mutual aid and shared action; to build on what we have together -- and strengthen the institutions that we all depend on..." (For an article on this excellent program, please see Sojourners' "We're in This Together.")
- "Money & Faith: The search for enough" (book & study guide, $14.95)
- A community-building anthology and study guide that encourages participants to reevaluate their relationship with money as they "consider issues of happiness and trust, investment and retirement, equity and ecology, and scarcity and abundance."
- Financial Peace University (leader's guide, $299; participant's guide, $93)
- An effective, easy-to-facilitate, biblically based program that helps participants gain basic financial management skills. This thirteen-week program relies on group accountability and emphasizes the elimination of personal debt.
- "Your Money or Your Life" (book, $16; study guide for church groups, $5)
- A nine-step program that helps participants "get out of debt and develop savings, reorder material priorities and live will for less, resolve inner conflicts between values and lifestyle, save the planet while saving money..."
- "Countering Pharaoh's Production-Consumption Society Today" (DVD & study guide, available through the UMC Regional Media Center, #D4626)
- A five-session DVD and study featuring theologian Walter Brueggemann. Sessions include presentations by Brueggemann and materials for reflection and action.
Increasing the Might of Every "Mite"
A few ideas for effective giving in hard financial times
- Giving Circles
- A fun and effective way to pool smaller donations and build community.
- Charity Navigator
- An "independent charity evaluator, [which] works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,300 of America's largest charities."
- Community Investment Opportunities - Ways of strengthening "main street" economies, locally and globally:
- Grameen America: a "non-profit microfinance organization whose mission is to help entrepreneurial individuals, especially women, build credit and defeat poverty. ...Grameen America provides small loans to low-income borrowers so that they can begin or expand income-generating activities."
- Oikocredit:The World Council of Churches started this investment/micro-lending project in 1975. Whether as individuals or entire churches, "investments can be made for as little as $1,000. It is a perfect way to put some of your investment funds to work for people who are working hard to help themselves. ...Your money will be available when [you or] your church needs it. The fixed interest rate is 2% (or less if you choose). The payoff? A new relationship with the world's poor . . . one based on trust, accountability, and hope."
- Kiva: If you have $25 (or more) and an Internet connection, you can become a micro-lender to a specific individual in a developing country. When you visit the Kiva (which means "unity" in Swahili) website you can browse through profiles of entrepreneurs throughout the world – learn about their projects and loan requests, communities, "risk rating," and hopes.
- Examples of other community investment credit unions/banks: Hope Community Credit Union, Self-Help Credit Union, Shore Bank.
- Advocating for a More Faithful Economy - Some organizations that can help you to do so: