We all run current events through filters. Take the economy. When we heard of a recession on both coasts, we Texans barely raised an eyebrow. Our economy was robust and diverse. When the market crashed and the recession hit our state, we began paying attention.

As a pastor, I run this information through three filters (and the response varies with each):

  1. The church CEO/administrator filter. (Yikes!)
  2. The individual filter. (Will my salary get cut? Will my daughter get scholarship offers?)
  3. The pastoral filter. (My members are worried. They are hurting. They have been laid off. What can I do to help?)

Initial response turned to action:

  1. We did what we could to address the church’s financial issues quickly and effectively through our committees and deacon body.
  2. We began spending less at home.
  3. We took an inventory of our church members’ pastoral needs and got to work.

We called a church-wide meeting for Sunday night, Feb. 15. I cooked beans and cornbread for 300 adults. I looked my congregation in the eye and told them that I hurt for them. I offered my help. Our children were in childcare, so that enabled me to be very specific without further traumatizing our kids, who feel the stress of the recession but do not have the tools to understand or cope with the issues.

Our people needed help, and they needed it immediately, so we didn’t reinvent the wheel. I know this isn’t very Baptistic , but we sent our folks to another church. There is an excellent ministry nearby, run by a Bible church, called Between Jobs Ministries. It is well run with a long and distinguished record of service. It would have taken months, if not years, to duplicate what that ministry was already doing.

We have offered help with coaching, resume reviews, financial advice and prayer support. All of this has come from our members, many of whom have been through lay-offs but now offer their services and invaluable advice free of charge.

We encouraged church members to let us know about job openings at their places of work. Within a week we received dozens of job listings. We posted them on our Web site and on my blog. I wound up connecting a member who has been laid off with another member who agreed to review her resume.

This situation has energized our church. Recessions can cause a sense of helplessness, but working proactively within our church has mobilized those who have been laid off to respond aggressively.

Our stewardship committee chairman has been front and center throughout these conversations, always quoting James 1:2-4 out of Eugene Peterson’s The Message: “The point is this. It is when our faith is put out in the open that we are able to build character.”

I encourage churches to respond to the economic crisis creatively and pastorally. Let people know you are not just trying to get in their wallet. Let your people know that you care.

Helping others in crisis has been therapeutic ”and helpful in unclogging those filters.

Ed Hogan is pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

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