January 5 - 11, 2009



Enter the New Frugality

There may be at least one silver lining in the current economic crisis . For the first time in a very long while, Americans are radically changing their spending habits and prioritizing their household budgets. Lavish expenditures and maxed-out credit cards? Nope. Try frugality and savings.

The Wall Street Journal reports that after years of spending more than we earned, Americans are actually living within their means and -- gasp! -- saving money. Goldman Sachs projects that the savings rate in 2009 may reach 6 percent, meaning that people will live on 94 percent of their income and put the rest away. By contrast the savings rate in 2007 was 0.5 percent.

The downside, of course, is that spending is exactly what the economy desperately needs to power it out of the recession. Paradoxically, during a recession a healthy personal savings rate means a slower recovery for the economy as a whole. But with layoffs rampant and uncertainty throughout the economy, people can hardly be blamed for being cautious about spending. 

For church leaders long wary of the grip of consumerism on the American psyche, the trend offers an opportunity.

At long last, people may be open to new learning on the value of money and its ability (and inability) to bring lasting happiness. People are learning firsthand the impermanence of wealth and the empty promise of security through accumulation. These are the very economic teachings that the Bible underscores again and again in both the Old Testament and New Testament. These are the very lessons Jesus taught. 

Pastors may find theri congregations eager to hear their preaching and teaching on stewardship. In addition, churches may find their people ready to learn about how to put their own financial houses in order -- and the church's as well.
--Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
(Reprint rights eagerly given to congregations for nonprofit use provided they print the copyright notice followed by the phrase, "Used by permission." Inquire about other uses and rights: rcblezard@embarqmail.com.)

New This Week:

Economic Justice for All
Office for Social Justice“A renewal of economic life depends on the conscious choices and commitments of individual believers who practice their faith in the world.” writes the U.S. Catholic Bishops in this social statement on economic life. A weighty read, this comprehensive essay frames many of the problems and tough choices facing Christians in the free marketplace. A worthwhile resource. Click here for “Economic Justice for All,” posted by the Office for Social Justice in the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Center for Christian StewardshipFirst Steps to Personal Budget Plans
When churches help their members to get their finances in order, their members can better contribute to the church. How we handle our money bears witness to our Christian maturity and commitment. Studies show that eighty percent of a church's budget is contributed by only twenty percent of its membership. Other studies show that differences over money constitute one of the greatest stresses in a marriage. Click here for "First Steps to Personal Budget Plans," from United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

Dana ReardonUncertain Times
“Times have always been uncertain for most of the people of the world.  The lives of the people of God are no exception.  Mary and Joseph didn’t count on the stock market or mutual funds.” Click here for “Uncertain Times,” from SOLI contributor Dana Reardon. Click here to read archived columns.

Teaching Stewardship to Young Children
Teaching Stewardship to Young ChildrenWhether you are a parent, a pastor or a Sunday school teacher, this resource offers practical tips for giving children a sense of the value of a dollar. Good advice you can put into action today. Click here for “Teaching Stewardship to Young Children,” from the BBC (Baptist Bible College) Foundation.

Sharron LucasA Question of Baptismal Identity
“For Jesus, baptism immediately set in motion a chain of events and a controversial ministry that led down straight to death on the cross. For many of us it led to dinner, some gifts, and a Kodak moment or two for the family album."  Click here for "A Question of Baptismal Identity," the latest essay by SOLI columnist Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.