Getting involved with Credit Unions

Getting involved with Credit Unions

26 January 2016 by Tom Newbold

Our call, as Christians, demands that we take the issue of money seriously.

Credit unions are organisations most people have heard of. There’s also a general feeling that they’re a ‘good thing’, not least because of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s famed ‘War on Wonga’ comments three years ago.

Church involvement with credit unions is growing. Reaching the needs of people in local communities, increasing access to responsible credit, and engaging with the very Biblical issue of money all form the basis for such involvement. The opportunities are there to be taken, and churches across the London Diocese are doing just that:

Community focus Churches in Hackney have set-up credit union access points in their buildings, run by volunteers. These credit union sub-branches increase local access to credit union services, raise awareness of the sector and enable churches to connect with more people in their community. Churches in Brent, Harrow, Tottenham and Enfield are currently working towards their own hub, and inspiration for many of these is coming from a fantastic network of church access points in Kent called ‘Connecting Canterbury’.

Access points and community hubs enable a dual-outcome of reaching and supporting local people, whilst engaging with structural justice. They’re also remarkably easy to run.

Teach and learn Focusing on the theology and practical knowledge surrounding money and credit unions is important for any church. Over 50 churches in London have now run the Seeing Change Course or held a Money Talk, two resources developed by The Centre for Theology and Community (CTC). These resources enable churches to begin on that journey of understanding the relationship between ourselves and what the Bible says about money, and how that affects our communities.

CTC have also produced a report called God and the Moneylenders, which they’ve now given away to 100s of churchgoers across London. It examines what the Bible has to say about how we interact with money and what that means for us today. God and the Moneylenders ‘Study Days’ have recently been launched too, enabling church leaders to explore these topics further.

Community relationships Many churches are looking for ways to build and maintain relationships with schools and other local organisations. Most credit unions offer young saver accounts, whilst many also run ‘savings clubs’ in local schools, helping establish financial education at a young age, combined with practical engagement with money. Volunteers are essential for running these. One church in Tottenham led the way to get a savings club set-up in its local school as part of the LifeSavers Programme and are now actively involved in helping run it and engage with children’s and parents alike.

Meanwhile, credit unions are often looking to build links with employers to set-up schemes, where employees can save and borrow with a credit union through a payroll deduction scheme. Any church or church member with good links to local employers can help support credit unions by facilitating and arranging conversations about these schemes.

Leading the way If churches are going to take the call of financial justice seriously, they have to lead the way. Many credit unions offer corporate accounts where churches can place some of their money. A group of churches across Kensington have between them invested tens of thousands into one local credit union.

Individual investment is just as important though. Anybody in society can benefit from joining a credit union, whether that be by saving and investing in a credit union (often being rewarded with an attractive dividend), or by accessing cheap, flexible loans. Churches in Islington and the City of London arranged mass sign-up campaigns to encourage parishioners to join. The truth is, however, anybody can do it very quickly and very simply.

Our call, as Christians, demands that we take the issue of money seriously. Considering how we can support and engage with credit unions, both as individuals and churches, is therefore a necessity.

Getting involved Find your nearest credit union at findyourcreditunion.co.uk, or for help in getting started engaging contact the Church Credit Champions Network at creditchampions@theology-centre.org

Tom Newbold

Tom Newbold

Tom joined The Centre for Community & Theology in August 2015 to coordinate the work of the Church Credit Champions Network in the Diocese of London. He previously worked in Bradford for debt-counselling charity Christians Against Poverty.

View all posts by Tom Newbold

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