Church Discretionary Fund Helps Members

Jonathan Eilert serves as the pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran in Loveland, Ohio, suburban congregation in a fairly wealthy area. For many of his congregants, finances aren’t an issue. So when new stories about rent and utility assistance dominate headlines, it’s hard for his congregation to connect.

He said, “There is this picture of a perfect suburban family that is self-sustaining, and that’s not a very biblical picture of how we are to be in community. We are trying to break down walls in lots of areas of people’s lives. When your family is in need, that is the time to draw closer to the church and not to push away.”

In 2013, the congregation established a discretionary fund for help members during tough times. Administered by Audrey Hawley, a trained Stephen Minister, Hawley understands the confidentiality and sensitivity required when people request assistance. According to Hawley, “I’m there to listen—to hear what the person has to say and listen for the need…Generally, I’m helping people if they need help with rent or utility bills.”

Hawley and Eilert believe it’s hard for members to open up to fellow parishioners when they are experiencing financial challenges because they don’t want to be “the needy neighbor.”

However, the equanimity in which the pandemic has impacted all communities have really pushed members outside of their comfort zones.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have come to us who have never had to ask for financial assistance in their lives,” she said. “They come with their heads down, apologetic, saying—and this breaks my heart—‘I’m not the kind of person who needs help.’ I think it’s probably a cliché for me to say it, but everybody is a person who needs help.”

Eilert added, “I think there is an element of shame with poverty. It’s something I’m cognizant of, so when people come in with their head held low, I try to celebrate with them that we have the ability to give this as a gift to help in a time of need and that it’s an expression of God’s love.”

The discretionary fund is just one small manifestation of that love.

Source: Living Lutheran