Churches helping members avoid financial trouble

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX)-  People in church congregations everywhere are feeling the pain of the economic crisis.

"Now you used to getting the things that you want, but you have to get only what you need," said Zortashi Gaines, who goes to Church on the Rock in Pascagoula every Sunday.

Like many South Mississippians, she struggles to make ends meet.

"I used to pay tithes, at least sixty dollars a week," Gaines said. "And it's gone down at least a little bit since the gas prices [went up] and with the price of food."

But she still puts as much money as she can in the collection plate every Sunday. She's part of the reason that local churches aren't feeling the economic pinch as much as could be expected.

"Our people, for the most part, have just believed that our future doesn't depend on the stock market, but it is in God's hands," said Church on the Rock Paster Rodger Bradley.

Church on the Rock in Pascagoula is helping its members handle financial trouble by teaching about financial responsibility. Only a few weeks ago, the church conducted a series on financial responsibility, aimed at reinforcing the importance of charitable giving and responsible spending. The most important lesson was how to handle credit.

"Credit will kill you, so we try to teach our people how to get out of debt and stay out of debt," Bradley said.

He also said he thinks the lessons taught by the church are helping members through the credit crisis.

The economy is also getting attention at Safe Harbor Methodist Church in Escatawpa. The church is hosting a thirteen week series on financial responsibility, called Financial Peace University.  The series focuses on financial guru Dave Ramsey's ideas.

"If you have no debt, the financial crisis we're in now, it's concerning, but with no debt, it doesn't bother you," said church member Lewis Sims.

The financial security of its members is helping the church weather the economic crisis.

"Churches that are financially secure, they have people who manage their debt to a point where they give freely," said Sims.

In the long run, these programs help everyone involved.

"It's helped me, and I've seen other people who have been helped by this," said Jeffrey Hinkel. "There are people in our church who are already debt free, and they are able to come back and help other people."

Safe Harbor Methodist Church has seen the benefits of financial security already.  They are collecting money to deliver cleanup supplies to Cameron, Louisiana.  Members have already donated more to the project than expected.

"I think people are not as excited as they used to be to just help pay the light bill," said Tom Potter. "But if you tell them that money will fill a flood bucket that is going to help a family in Cameron, Louisina, clean their house, they can't wait to write that check."

Safe Harbor's financial program is also available to community members. Anyone interested in joining should contact the church at 228-475-4833.