With thanks to Oxford Diocese for the material on this page.
People struggling to pay their bills, skipping meals, and unable to afford essentials are not isolated cases but part of a pattern of intensifying poverty that has been in evidence for years (as this Joseph Rowntree Foundation report reveals). War in Ukraine and rising energy prices have now contributed to a cost-of-living crisis.
Real-term income has been falling too so, unlike previous recessions, we are more frequently seeing those who are in jobs struggling financially, not just those who are unemployed.
The Church's role
Part of the church’s mission (see the Five Marks of Mission) is to respond to human need by loving service, and to transform unjust structures of society. As Christians we must take the action indicated in Micah 6:8:
Act justly, by proclaiming that people being unable to afford their energy bills or sufficient food is not right. And we must call employers to pay their staff a fair, liveable wage, and Universal Credit to be sufficient.
Love mercy, by pointing people towards support and sharing our resources so that no one goes without (reminiscent of the early church in Acts 4:32-35).
Walk humbly with our God, by remembering God cares deeply for every person, and that we are a community whose flourishing is intertwined with each other’s flourishing.
Signpost to resources or start an initiative?
This will depend on your context and the issue(s) you are seeking to address. However you choose to respond, building relationships is crucial to walking alongside others.
For more difficult scenarios, an accredited adviser or experienced organisation is needed. Equally we don’t want to be duplicating fantastic work that already exists. In these cases, signposting or referring is therefore hugely important. You’ll find many organisations or information to point people to under the Support for Individuals heading.
You may also consider starting an initiative where there is a growing need that isn’t being met by existing organisations. This could be through partnering with other local charities or groups. It’s worth remembering that some needed support is not particularly complicated. Your church could provide basic support and advice to help people to navigate complicated language, forms, or systems. You’ll find more information in the pages below, and under Support for Churches you’ll find resources for your church to set up specific initiatives.
Whatever steps your church takes, remember to communicate what support is available to your communities.
In this section...
Where to go to get help with debt and money, resources for finding a job and wage queries, and guidance on bills.
Guidance for churches looking to start their own initiatives or campaigning to encourage advocacy in their congregations.
Advice on grants and funds to assist clergy in the Diocese of Chichester and their families.
Things to consider for churches looking to offer a warm space this winter and resources to help.
The church has sometimes been accused of thinking we have the answers without involving those who are experiencing the problems we are aiming to solve. Citizens UK’s community organising iron rule is;
“Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves.”
This means listening to those struggling to find out what it really is that they need, not assuming we know best. It also means involving people and empowering them to do things for themselves.
We also need to consider whether assistance is a temporary fix (and, of course, urgent practical action is needed right now) and whether there is an underlying issue that can also be addressed to make a longer-term impact.