Elderly Couple At Church Web

Debt’s Threat – A Real and Present Danger

Article Type: Pastor to Pastor

There’s a growing threat to believers, with the potential for catastrophe developing right under our noses.

According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, nearly half of Americans are completely unprepared to handle the unexpected. The 2017 survey of 12,000 people from across the country revealed that, if faced with a $400 emergency expense, 40 percent of respondents said that they would not be able to pay it. Instead, they would be forced to sell something or borrow to cover the cost.

Survey results like these are stark enough to get some attention. They highlight an uncomfortable truth that otherwise goes unnoticed: debt is real and many in our churches suffer silently beneath its weight. It’s not theory. It’s not just “those people.” It’s the Church, too. It’s us.

The potential responsibility of the Church to help is staggering. Assuming these numbers hold true for 200 members, a congregation would have 80 individuals who wouldn’t be able to pay an unexpected $400 dollar expense out of pocket. If all 80 of these saints needed $400 simultaneously and asked their deacon for help, the resulting need would be a $32,000 benevolence fund check.

The super-sized problem of debt means that a benevolence fund alone won’t cover it. Besides, most can agree that simply writing a check doesn’t always get to the heart of the matter.

Any financial assistance offered is best paired with the appropriate resources to help folks stay out of debt.

Happily, many financial literacy tools and resources are readily available for churches and many of them are free!

Here’s a short list to equip the saints in your church for the wise and generous use of their financial resources:


Barnabas Foundation is proud to be your partner in promoting financial literacy and generous giving at your church. Find articles, books, studies and more for your church under Tools and Resources. You can also email me at pleo@BarnabasFoundation.com or call 888.448.3040. 

Rev. Phillip Leo is the Church Communications Director at Barnabas Foundation. Read Phil's online bio