Church of The Saviour is very grateful to the Church and Community Fund for their generous support of our debt counselling service in partnership with Christians Against Poverty. The statistics on UK personal debt are staggering.
• Britain’s personal debt increases by £1m every 4 minutes.
• The average household debt in the UK is £7,600 – not including mortgages.
• 1 in 5 people borrow money just to pay household bills.
• Over 3m people are struggling with energy bills, 4.7m are in debt to their water company and more than 1m households have had their phone cut off.
The primary reason given for 70% of all couples breaking up is money worries and a quarter of all those in debt are receiving treatment from their GP for stress, depression and anxiety.
You have probably seen adverts on TV for companies who promise to solve all your debt problems with 1 monthly payment. This is what CAP does – but with one major difference – CAP do not charge the client any interest for the ongoing service and support they provide.
CAP is a Christian organisation dedicated to helping local people work with what they have to get themselves out of debt. They do not pay their debts for them; they examine their debts, look at their income and work out a realistic budget for paying off what they owe. Since 1996, when the charity was started, they have built up good relations with utilities companies and credit card companies etc so that they are in a good position to negotiate and stop interest charges and reduce repayments to an affordable level. In this way, CAP can instantly remove the threat of eviction or cutting off of services from worried families.
It is very easy to dismiss those caught in the debt trap as being self-indulgent, careless or just plain irresponsible, but the reality is that debt is a very easy trap to fall into. At 18 our young people are inundated with offers of credit cards, bank accounts, overdraft facilities, store cards etc and through lack of experience in managing credit, many of them run up debts of several hundred pounds. Even families who have managed their finances in the past are at risk. It takes only a short period of illness without sick pay to put a mortgage into arrears. A sudden bereavement, the break up of a marriage or the loss of a job can plunge a family into serious debt.
So, where does the church come in? The church actually has a huge part to play in this work. Firstly, with prayer : CAP has discovered that the few centres that do close down are those not supported by a team of volunteers dedicated to backing the work with prayer. If we are serious about our commitment to the poor and reaching out to the community, and we should be because God is, as we see throughout the Bible, then we must make full use of the most effective weapon our Lord has given us. Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Secondly, even those who don’t have the time or the opportunity to form part of a prayer support team can help by becoming Life Changers and supporting the work with the commitment of a monthly donation to CAP.
Some time ago, our PCC, together with all other churches in the Diocese, was asked to draw up a Mission Action Plan, which we have now done. We stated 2 priorities in our MAP: firstly, to preach Christ and to worship Him and, secondly, to reach out to the community with the love of God. The first of those priorities is well in hand and we have now been given a wonderful opportunity to get to work on our second, through partnering with CAP.
Working with CAP, we can help people just like our friends, families or neighbours, climb out of debt. We can draw people into a loving relationship with Jesus. We can save marriages. We can prevent suicides. We can keep families together. We can give mums the chance to feed their children and we can release parents from the worry of eviction. God has a heart for the poor. We must heed His command to be open-handed towards our neighbours and towards the poor and needy in our land.
Christians Against Poverty does not receive funding from the government, but relies entirely on God’s provision through voluntary donations. They work to release people from debt by teaching them how to manage their money. They also seek to draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus by befriending them and welcoming them into the fellowship of local churches. We are indeed fortunate to be associated with such a body of Christ’s servants.
Please support CAP with prayer and seek God’s guidance as to what you can do to ensure the success of this much needed joint venture. I will be happy to answer any questions about CAP.
Sheila Fielding – Blackburn Centre Manager