It’s the same – but different
It’s that time of year again. Funny, isn’t it, how Christmas always seems to come around the same time every year? And every year, many in our congregations repeat the same pattern of spending that they hadn’t saved or planned for. It seems that stewardship considerations often take a back seat when it comes to Christmas.
But this year, with uncertainty in the economy and restrictions due to the pandemic, it makes sense to consider some basic stewardship principles and how they apply to the season.
While many jobs have been cut or cut back due to the pandemic, there are some earning opportunities available, especially with companies that use delivery as part of their service. Some seasonal retail positions open up. For folks in your congregation who find themselves unemployed or underemployed in this season, a prayerful search for work is a good stewardship move.
We always think of giving in this season, and rightfully so. But this may be a year to consider shifting some of our giving. Office Christmas parties and family gatherings may be curtailed; why not channel the money that might have gone into those gifts into the church or other charities that help the needy in the name of Jesus? Many organizations – both local and global – run special fund drives this time of year. Perhaps this is the year for members of your congregation to think of seasonal giving in a new light.
Given economic uncertainty and the potential for further lockdowns during the pandemic, it makes sense to be an especially Prudent Spender in this season. Our culture pushes us to overspend, to purchase without much thought, and to ignore financial realities in the process. But this may be the year to let contentment guide our spending decisions – and to encourage those with whom we normally exchange gifts to do the same.
As we consider contentment with what God has provided and at the same time take into account the uncertain economic climate, increasing our savings may make sense this holiday season. Maybe this is the time to divert some spending into saving. The massive job loss associated with the pandemic points out the wisdom of having 3-6 months of expenses in Emergency Savings. Perhaps one of the most thoughtful gifts to give this year is to free up people from obligations to gift exchanges in order to allow people to save that money instead.
Spending ourselves deeper into debt is a common problem when it comes to the holiday season. Spending on gifts, spending on parties, spending on events – much of this often happens without forethought. Some common pitfalls like events and gatherings may not be taking place this year. But one way to keep from overspending is to use cash rather than credit cards this year. Instead of pulling out the card at every store and only vaguely recognizing how much we’re spending, stop at an ATM at the beginning of the shopping trip and take out cash, using that cash for shopping. This will tend to curb spending in two ways. First, there will be an upper limit on what can be spent, so shoppers will more consciously think through their choices. Second, there is an overall tendency to purchase more expensive items when using a credit card than when using cash for the same purpose.
We often see members of our congregations get serious about their finances after the first of the year – that is to say, after the period when they’ve done the most damage to their financial position. Why not make this the year to encourage people in the area of Biblical stewardship before that damage is done?