By Juan Sanchez
As a part of the CARES Act, the government is sending Economic Stimulus Payments (ESP) to Americans who filed income tax returns in 2018 or 2019.
As pastors, we have a responsibility to shepherd our people to be faithful stewards with all that our Lord provides.
To be sure, our people are free to spend their ESPs as the Lord directs. Still, there’s something about how we handle money that exposes where our hearts are.
So then, how might we shepherd our people to be faithful stewards with this unexpected income? Allow me to suggest several ways you may lead your flock to spend their ESPs.
1. BASIC NEEDS
The purpose for which the ESP was designed was to cover the basic needs of workers who’ve been furloughed or laid off.
Unfortunately, the ESP won’t sustain anyone for very long if they’re unemployed or underemployed.
It’s only provided to cover essentials in the short term. So, encourage those who’ve been furloughed or laid off to seek the unemployment benefits offered by your state.
If they don’t qualify for unemployment, you may need to help these members through your benevolence fund.
2. HELP OTHERS
For those who are blessed enough to keep working and continue to receive their regular pay and also receive an ESP, one of the temptations they’ll face is to think of it as “fun” money—money you can blow on yourself or your family just for fun.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings the Lord provides, like extra income.
But remember, this money is being provided to care for the basic needs of the unemployed and underemployed workers during this pandemic.
If one has no immediate need for the ESP, why not encourage them to steward it to serve others? Maybe there’s a family member in need that they may help directly. Maybe a neighbor.
Or, they can help you care for the members of your church who have financial or material needs by contributing to the benevolence fund.
Perhaps you have members who continue working and are receiving your regular pay, but it’s been hard for them to make ends meet because they’re in a debt situation that’s difficult to manage.
For them, the ESP may be a divine opportunity to attack debt. Help them consider this money as a gift from the Lord to help release them from bondage to a debtor.
4. EMERGENCY SAVINGS
Maybe you have members who are managing their debt well. Give thanks to the Lord! Do they have an emergency fund?
Sometimes unexpected expenses will hit you like a punch in the gut—the car breaks down, the washing machine quits working, the air conditioning goes on the fritz in August.
If your people aren’t prepared for these emergency expenses, they’re likely to incur further debt. Encourage them to establish a $1,000.00 emergency fund.
Once they’ve done that, encourage them to start working on a longer-term emergency savings account that’ll equal 3 to 6 months of their salary.
That way, if they’re ever furloughed or laid off in the future, they may survive that period.
5. RETIREMENT INVESTMENT
Some of your people are likely able to meet their basic needs, they’ve been generous, they don’t have issues with debt, and their emergency fund is squared away.
But, have they planned long-term for their and their family’s retirement needs?
The ESP is not a large amount, but it could be a useful starting point, especially if they haven’t thought about planning for retirement. You’re never too young to begin planning.
Again, as pastors, we don’t presume to tell our people how to spend their money. But, we do have a responsibility to shepherd our people in all seasons of life to be faithful stewards.
So pastors, take this opportunity to shepherd your people well. May our Lord continue to be generous toward us that we may be generous in our giving and faithful in our stewardship.