Christians Against Poverty
Every day we’re bombarded with headlines that say we’re facing one of the greatest economic crises of recent times. With personal debt at record levels, the economy faltering and unemployment up, it can be easy for Christians to feel powerless in the face of such issues. Personal debt now stands at £1.4 trillion (that’s twelve zeros!) and those in debt are far more likely to suffer relationship breakdown, miss meals for the sake of making repayments and even attempt suicide.
The good news is, though, Methodist churches can respond to this problem with a practical solution that really works. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) was founded 12 years ago in Bradford and has been helping congregations across the UK tackle what is the most pressing problem facing UK society in the 21st Century: personal debt.
The charity operates through a growing network of centres based around the UK, all opened in partnership with a local church. Over the last twelve years, the charity has grown from one man working from his home with a donation of £10, to a national charity with 82 centres across the country and an annual turnover of £5 million. CAP’s centres now stretch from Aberdeen down to Penzance, with the first centre in Northern Ireland penned to open in January 2009 as well.
CAP aims to show God’s love in action by providing sustainable poverty relief through debt counselling, advice and practical help. CAP’s unique ‘hands on’ approach empowers people to help themselves out of poverty and be released from the fear, oppression and worry generated by overwhelming debts. Vital financial and budgeting life skills are developed through our services, thus ensuring poverty relief is sustainable. Through CAP’s work, many also respond to the love of Jesus and make a commitment to follow Him. As each centre is opened in partnership with a local church, these new Christians are ideally placed to be supported, nurtured and welcomed into a loving church family.
It has never been easier for Methodist churches to partner with CAP to tackle debt in their local communities. Not only can they open a dedicated debt counselling centre, they can also run CAP Money, the charity’s three-week money management course. Recently launched, the course aims to give any person in the local community the tools they need to help them manage their finances and is run through the local church. For a one-off fee of just £100, CAP will train up three members of a local church who will become ‘Money Coaches’ and run the course in their community.
With nearly 200 churches already signed up and many now starting to run the course, thousands of people across the UK will now have the help they need to keep their finances on track. What’s more, with many predicting that the financial situation will get worse, there has never been a more important time for local churches across the region and the country to reach out to the needy in their communities with a practical demonstration of Jesus’ love.
Whilst personal debt is a massive problem and one that can no longer be ignored by the local church, Christians need not feel powerless to combat it. Through Christians Against Poverty, many can now respond effectively with an award-winning service that truly frees people from the cycle of debt and enables them to respond to the love of God in the process.
Jonathan Priestley is PR officer for CAP UK
CAP at Methodist Central Hall WestminsterL~
At Central Hall we have bought into CAP’s vision and heart to help those struggling with debt and we are looking forward to working more and more closely with the organisation. Initially we are aiming to run the CAP Money programme, a short, practical course on money management. We are also raising CAP’s profile among our own community and supporting their work in prayer. In the longer term, we are considering partnering with CAP to open a debt counseling centre out of Central Hall in Westminster.
Debt and all its related hardships are increasingly affecting those in all our local communities, a trend which is likely to continue for some time yet. CAP offers our churches practical tools, a tried-and-tested model, support and expertise to help us assist those most in need. Central Hall would be very interested to hear from any other Methodist Churches who already support CAP’s work or who would like to do so. In the meantime, further information about CAP can be found at www.capuk.org
Jessica Hargreaves is a member of The Sanctuary young adults collective at Westminster Central Hall.
METConnexion, Winter 2008, p23.