The cost of living crisis and the church

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There was an old curse to the effect of “may you live in interesting times.” Well, we’ve certainly been living through interesting times! This is perhaps a shock to the system for millennials.  We lived through a period of unparalleled peace, security and prosperity from the 1990ss. Yes, there were terror events including 911 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but those events were rare or a long way away and so didn’t trouble us much.   WE lived through a period of unparalleled economic growth and low inflation too. Budgets tended to mean tax cuts and may of us experienced generous pay rises.

The credit crunch around about 2008 marked a change in all that. The result was a period of Government austerity and tax rises, then in the UK we had the political shock of growing nationalist causes in Wales and Scotland as well as Brexit.  Then came COVID and lockdowns.  All of these have combined to create levels of uncertainty not felt in a generation but in fact perhaps it was our generation that was unusual, anyone living before 1990 may have considered uncertainty and hardship a normal part of life.

Optimists in Government want to talk in terms of bouncing back, building back better and levelling up as we come out of the pandemic. However, that isn’t looking quite so straight forward.  There are a few dark clouds gathering. Economically we have seen inflation return and fuel prices increase. The result is that household bills are going up, so too are taxes but wages are not.  This is why people are talking about a cost of living crisis. Meanwhile, Russian troop manoeuvres on the Ukraine border are increasing tensions.  What would a Superpower entering territorial war on the borders of Europe mean for us?  As well as the potential for Britain being drawn into a war with another nuclear power and all that entails, even without that, conflict or the threat of it in that region is likely to affect fuel supplies and costs just as uncertainty in the Middle East used to affect oil prices.

I wonder if we as Christians are pausing to think about this and its implications for the church?  There are two things to consider here. First, we might want to consider how a cost of living crisis might affect churches and Christians. Secondly, we might want to think about what If anything we have to say on the subject.

In this article I am restricting myself to the first question. We will come back later to talk about what if anything the Bible has to say about economic issues. Here though are some specific and immediate things to consider.

  1. A cost of living crisis will affect your church corporately because bills will go up. Simple things like heating and lighting your church building will increase as will the cost of food for hospitality and events.
  2.  A cost of living crisis will affect your church because it will affect your staff team.  Church workers often work from home, so as well as their normal household bills going up, there is the cost of working from home too. It is probably worth double checking that they are making full benefit from any tax rebates available to help cover the cost.
  3. A cost of living crisis will affect your church because if people are seeing their income squeezed then that may well affect the ability of members to give.
  4. Individual members are likely to be affected by the squeeze and some families will struggle. Indeed, the crisis is likely to fall disproportionately on some, especially the less well off and the vulnerable.
  5. You may find that you are getting increasing requests for practical help from the community, especially if you have been involved in things like Food Banks, CAP counselling/courses and helping with other forms of hardship support.
  6. The practicalities of financial hardship will put stress on people. Look out for how this affects emotional health and relationships too.

The big question of course is whether or not we will also see opportunities in a crisis like this.  Will we learn to cling to Christ more and depend on him. Will we learn about what it means to be sacrificial in our giving? Will we discover more about what it means to be part of thebody together and love one another?

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