Learning money skills in houses of worship

Religious teachings are full of warnings about money, if not outright suspicion of the ways of commerce. But during economic turmoil, congregations are increasingly showing members how to navigate the choppy economic seas – and they’re finding this new type of aid in big demand.

Although tough economic times are a national and global story, their effects and severity vary regionally, as do the approaches of houses of worship. So this story is pre-eminently local. And it won’t go away quickly. Unemployment rates continue to rise, and economists say many people will be without jobs or underemployed even after the economy rebounds. The housing market also continues to struggle, and few know what to make of the stock market.

As a result, there appears to be a growing need to educate people in the basics of money management and household finances. And congregations are increasingly addressing that need, in a variety of ways.

Background

Story ideas

  • Faith-based financial counselors stress the spiritual element of money management, approaching this task as stewardship of resources. Using a variety of counselors and programs, congregations are offering seminars and training on financial education. Check with a spectrum of local congregations about what kinds of financial education they may be offering and what religious principles the programs emphasize.
  • State and local assistance agencies across the country are developing programs and partnerships with local congregations to offer assistance. Check with local mortgage lenders and civic organizations that assist the unemployed about any partnerships they have developed. Capitalizing on the influence of clergy in people’s lives, New York City, for example, is training clergy to become a source of financial and consumer education.
  • Apart from congregations, local faith-based charities and social service agencies can report not only on local demand for food, shelter or other types of assistance but also on any education programs they may be offering on personal finances, job seeking or home ownership.
  • Distinct from ministering to practical and material needs, religions also have a body of teachings on economic ethics and justice. Clergy have been preaching on the subject of economy, offering analysis, rebuke and consolation. What themes have emerged at local congregations?
  • In some areas, interfaith groups have taken action because the economic downturn has spared no one on the basis of faith. Also, all religions offer teachings on the wise use of resources, so an interfaith story can explore that context.

News articles and research

National sources

Organizations

  • Council for Ethical Leadership

    The Council for Ethical Leadership is an association based in Columbus, Ohio of leaders in business, higher education, religion and other professions working together to try to strengthen the ethical fabric of business and economic life.

    Contact: 614-236-7222.
  • Feeding America

    Feeding America, the country’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization, distributes food to food banks and works on policy. Vicki B. Escarra is president and CEO of the Chicago-based organization. They list all their local media contacts.

    Contact: 800-771-2303.
  • International Business Ethics Institute

    The International Business Ethics Institute is a  private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization founded in 1994 in response to the growing need for transnationalism in the field of business ethics. It is based in Washington, D.C.

    Contact: 202-296-6938.
  • Kingdom Advisors

    Kingdom Advisors is a nationwide network of evangelical Christian financial professionals in almost 60 U.S. communities.

    Contact: 404-497-7680.
  • Orthodox Union

    The Orthodox Union is the educational and outreach arm of Orthodox Judaism. It is generally considered a Modern Orthodox organization. Among its main concerns is helping Jews keep kosher and strengthening their traditional rituals, practices and holiday observances. It posts a page that allows users to search for Orthodox synagogues by state. Rabbi Steven Weil is senior managing director.

  • PICO National Network

    PICO National Network is a network of faith-based community organizations. It was one of the leaders of the 40 Days for Health Reform campaign. Gordon Whitman is director of public policy and communications. Contact 866-550-7426 ext. 713.

    PICO organized a cross-country bus caravan in March to Washington, D.C., to call attention to victims of home foreclosure.

Individuals

  • Nancy Ammerman

    Nancy Ammerman is professor of sociology at Boston University and a leading expert on congregational dynamics, especially in mainline Protestantism. She is the author of Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes: Finding Religion in Everyday Life and Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and Their Partners. She is also an expert on religious movements and has written about the rise of fundamentalism.

  • Chuck Bentley

    Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a prominent national Christian financial education ministry with representatives across the country and internationally.

    Contact: 800-722-1976.
  • Ronald Blue

    Ron Blue is the founder of Ronald Blue & Co., a financial and investment consulting firm in the Atlanta area. He is a co-author of the 2009 book Surviving Financial Meltdown: Confident Decisions in an Uncertain World and president of Kingdom Advisors, a nationwide network of evangelical Christian financial professionals.

    Contact: 404-497-7680 ext. 7686.
  • Charles Clark

    Charles Clark is an economics professor at St. John’s University in New York and an expert on Catholic social teaching and economics.

  • Daniel Finn

    Daniel Finn is a professor of theology and economics St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minn. He is the author of the 2006 book The Moral Ecology of Markets: Assessing Claims About Markets and Justice. He wrote an article in the Sept. 26, 2008, edition of Commonweal magazine, “Libertarian Heresy: The Fundamentalism of Free-Market Theology.”

  • James Hudnut-Beumler

    James Hudnut-Beumler is a professor of American religious history at the divinity school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He directed the Material History of American Religion Project, which focused on material objects and economic themes. He is an expert on the church, ethics, philanthropy and general money issues.

  • Laurence R. Iannaccone

    Laurence R. Iannaccone, (pronounced “YAWN -uh – cone -ee”) director of the Institute for the Study of Religion, Economics and Society and professor of economics at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., is a leading authority internationally on the economics of religion. He heads the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture and developed the Consortium for the Economic Study of Religion.

  • Robert Katz

    Robert Katz is a New Orleans-based CPA, minister and author of books on personal finance, including The Solomon Portfolio: How to Invest Like a King.

  • Gerry O’Hanlon

    The Rev. Gerry O’Hanlon is the author of The Recession and God: Reading the Signs of the Times and is director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin, Ireland. Contact through the center.

  • Deborah Price

    Deborah Price is a money coach who writes the blog Your Daily Spiritual Stimulus for the multifaith Web site Beliefnet. She works with a network of 100 “money coaches” who she says are being asked to lead or facilitate programs through local religious groups. Contact her at the Money Coaching Institute in Petaluma, Calif.

    Contact: 707-778-6206.
  • Dave Ramsey

    Radio and TV personality Dave Ramsey is the author of The Total Money Makeover, among other books, and founder of Financial Peace University, a financial education program that churches and other groups use. Contact him through media relations.

  • Isam Salah

    Isam Salah heads Islamic finance and investment at the New York law firm King & Spalding.

  • Ibrahim Warde

    Ibrahim Warde teaches Islamic banking and finance at Tufts University in Boston.

  • Rebecca M. Blank

    Rebecca M. Blank is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in economics and social policy. She is a past dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and former co-director of the National Poverty Center. Blank is co-author of Is the Market Moral?: A Dialogue on Religion, Economics & Justice. Contact through the Brookings communications office.

    She chaired the United Church of Christ committee that wrote “Christian Faith: Economic Life and Justice,” a statement adopted by the church’s general synod in 1989, and is a church member. Listen to an interview with her about the role of faith in tough economic times, posted by the Center for American Progress, a think tank.

    Contact: 202-797-6105.
  • Adam Hamilton

    The Rev. Adam Hamilton is founder and senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., one of the country’s largest Methodist churches. He is the author of the 2009 book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.

    The church has developed ReSet Ministries to respond to members most directly affected by the current economy.

    Contact: 913-544-0700.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Albino F. Barrera

    The Rev. Albino F. Barrera is a Catholic priest and professor of theology and economics at Providence College in Providence, R.I. He is the author of the 2006 book God and the Evil of Scarcity: Moral Foundations of Economic Agency and the 2005 book Economic Compulsion and Christian Ethics.

  • Bruce Webb

    Bruce Webb teaches macroeconomics and Christian teaching on economics and the economy at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.

  • Robert Black

    Robert Black teaches economics at Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. He has written about Christian principles in economics.

  • Gregory Krohn

    Gregory Krohn teaches religion and economics at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

    Contact: 570-577-3448.

In the South

  • Kenneth Elzinga

    Kenneth Elzinga is Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia. His past research interests include religion and economics.

  • David Mustard

    David Mustard is an associate professor of economics at the University of Georgia in Athens, and his economic research is frequently cited in the media. He serves on the executive board of the Association of Christian Economists.

  • Marybeth Whalen

    Marybeth Whalen, along with her husband Curt, wrote the 2009 book Learning to Live Financially Free, based on their own financial mistakes. Contact the Charlotte, N.C., couple through publicist Leslie Paladino at their Grand Rapids, Mich., publisher, Kregel Publishing.

  • M. Kabir Hassan

    M. Kabir Hassan is associate professor and associate chair of the department of economics and finance at the University of New Orleans. He spoke at a 2009 conference on Islamic finance and financial resilience.

  • Douglas Meeks

    Douglas Meeks, Cal Turner Chancellor professor of theology and Wesleyan studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn., has written about the economy and the future of liberation theology in North America.

  • Charles McDaniel

    Charles McDaniel is a former businessman and now the associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He wrote God & Money: The Moral Challenge of Capitalism, and he writes and teaches on “the developmental parallels between Muslim economic thought and Christian economic ideas as they evolved over the course of Western history.”

  • Joerg Rieger

    Joerg Rieger is a professor of constructive theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is an expert on mainline Protestant denominations and says some of those churches, while they do not teach a prosperity gospel, share a “prosperity mentality” when they preach that “good things happen to good people.”

In the Midwest

In the West

  • Edd Noell

    Edd Noell is a professor of economics and business at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where he specializes in the history of economic thought and the relationship between Christianity and economics. He is president of the Association of Christian Economists.

  • Deborah Smith Pegues

    Deborah Smith Pegues is a businesswoman who was chief financial officer for the megachurch West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. She wrote the 2009 book Financial Survival in Uncertain Times.

    Contact: 323-293-5861.
  • Ed Bacon

    The Rev. Ed Bacon is rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., a congregation known for its progressive ideals and missions.

    He co-hosted an Oprah’s Soul Series XM radio webcast March 16 on spirituality and the economic crisis.

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