A church member has just lost their job. He asks the deacons what he should do. His family will need money. Here is the plan. This is how he can stop the bleeding, regain control of a spiraling situation, and plot a course for hope and recovery…
First, look at the big picture.
When someone loses their job, their income is about to dry up. However, they still have basic personal and family needs to cover. They have basic bills to pay. They may have debt payments. Their income stops coming in, but the money will continue to flow out.
So, like a doctor applying a tourniquet on a wounded patient to restrict — but not completely stop — the flow of blood, you have to apply an emergency financial procedure to do the same to the member’s household budget.
THE EMERGENCY FINANCIAL PLAN
Like a soldier who has suffered a major wound and has lost a lot of blood, the member is likely to be a bit disoriented and light-headed when they learn they lost their job. So, the first step is to help them prioritize the bills that they need to pay first. Click the link to read the details.
The second step is hemorrhage control: drastically slow down spending. Cut expenses to the bone. Stop all but the essential spending on bills identified in Step 1. This means no more dining out at restaurants, cancelling gym memberships and magazine subscriptions, cancelling sports activities for the children. If there are childcare costs, then with one of the family members out of work they can keep the kids at home. Scale back entertainment costs. If the member has multiple streaming services, for example, they should cancel all but one. Cancel luxuries like lawncare service. The diaconate can help out around the house by rounding up church youth to assist with lawncare if needed. Start making meal plans and go grocery shopping with a list. For more ideas on how to cut spending, read this article: 7 Painless Ways to Cut Your Spending.
The next step may occur automatically with their job loss: They must stop funding their retirement plan. This step is more relevant to a dual-income family. The other spouse may still have a job. They may be funding a retirement account through automatic paycheck deductions. That spouse should stop funding any retirement accounts immediately. That’s because all available money must be redirected to paying bills and covering household needs.
The fourth step is similar to the previous: Stop any accelerated debt re-payment plans. If the family had been trying to snowball their debt in a get-out-of-debt plan, then they need to pause that effort. Only make the minimum payments. In some cases, they may need to contact their lender to develop a relief plan so that they can stop making certain debt payments altogether for a short period of time until they can get back on track.
The first four steps are intended to help guide the church member back onto a success path after their disorienting and confidence-shattering job loss. Despair can quickly set in if they don’t take the correct actions.
Missteps at this early stage can set up the family or individual for a series of cascading failures that will make it incredibly difficult for them to get back on their feet and maintain a stable household. The diaconate needs to help them maintain stability and keep a level head. There is no need to despair. All things are in Jesus’s hands. Remind them to be strong in their faith and lean on Him. By leaning on the diaconate, they are leaning on Christ.
With this action plan, a deacon can establish short-term, attainable goals for the family or individual. They will be able to get a few quick wins under their belt. This will be positive for their mental health. It will help with motivation by getting some forward momentum behind them.
At this point, once bills have been prioritized and as much cash has been freed up as possible, the fifth step is to build a budget. By now, the tourniquet is in place. The bleeding has slowed. The patient is going to live. Their clarity is returning.
Building a budget is crucial. If the family doesn’t already have one, they must start one. You can help. Some of the steps they have already taken will have made this much easier. By prioritizing their bills, it forces them to organize bills, their amounts, and their due dates. Now they need to fill in the other categories. This is going to be their gameplan going forward.
The sixth step after establishing the budget is to track all incomes and expenses down to the dollar. This requires going through bank statements, bank accounts, receipts for cash expenditures, digital receipts, and anything else. Using a free program like Mint is an easy way to do this. It syncs to bank accounts, mortgage accounts, retirement accounts, and many others and tracks every transaction. The family must then classify each transaction according to the categories they have established in their budget.
The seventh step is to examine how much money they have in savings. If they have an emergency fund, then now they have all the data in place to determine how long it will last.
The eighth step is to look for a job. This must become the unemployed member’s new full-time job.
The ninth step is to raise extra money. This can be done by selling old stuff the family doesn’t need. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. They can put their items on Craigslist or eBay. Any little extra bit helps. It will also help to declutter and get back to the basics.
Any family or individual who takes these steps should be eligible to receive financial support from the diaconate.
Many families don’t have much savings. Many families live paycheck-to-paycheck. So the chances are good that any church family who suffers a job loss is going to need money fast. They will come to the diaconate. They should come to the diaconate. The primary mission of the church is to take care of her members.
Diaconates must be wise with their disbursements. They have limited resources. As Jesus said, they must not cast their pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). No church member should want to be swine. But their old habits may have led them, like the prodigal son, into dangerously close contact. But it is not too late for them to return home. This is the great gift of grace that God has given us. He will always forgive us. It is a familiar biblical pattern for people to forget God during the good times. This is one reason he sends us hard times: to bring us back to Him. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 3:7; Zechariah 1:3).
Any church member who goes through this 9-step program will be as silver tried in a furnace, refined seven times. It will change their lives forever. And the diaconate can have confidence that aiding this family bring forth good fruit.