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Is faith-based credit counseling the answer for some?

Connie Prater

The audience listens intently as the speaker schools them on getting rid of credit card debt.

“Debt is a sickness and credit cards are an easy way to get sick,” he says. I sit, taking notes. It’s not a personal finance seminar, although in many ways it sounds like one. No. This is a Sunday church service. The lecturer turned personal finance coach is senior pastor of a Central Texas church. Around the room, Bibles are open.

To Some, it may appear to be an unlikely venue to talk about getting out of mountainous credit card debt, but two big screens in the front of the room show hypothetical breakdowns of a repayment plan for getting out of — and staying out of — debt.

“The Bible is full of wisdom from God to lead us to financial freedom,” the pastor says. He reveals that in his former profession he managed portfolios worth nearly $50 million as a financial advisor. Now, he feels, personal financial management is so important to his church members’ lives that he set up a series of four Sunday sermons around the topic in November 2007. Patching up bad credit and fixing financial woes that cause family stress, marriage trouble and depression may be just as important as saving souls.

Ministering to the financially trouble has in fact grown across the country over the past decade — perhaps tracking the growth of mounting credit debt among families. Faith-based credit counseling services are emerging in many cities and a new wave of pastors is seeing the light. Why not preach sermons that speak to the real-world financial crises faced by growing numbers of parishioners?

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