Church employees struggling with debt

Debt is a common experience for UK church employees, according to the results of a new survey.

In the survey of 182 individual church employees, 24% said they currently had personal debts - excluding mortgage debt - which were exceeding the equivalent of one month's salary.

One in three said they felt there was no one in the church they could go to about their financial position.

One in eight said their ministry role was being affected by their situation.

The survey looked at data from over 400 churches and found that pay levels tend not to keep pace with inflation, while less than half of staff are contributing to a church sponsored pension scheme.

One church worker, named only as Julian, told of how he left his job as a chartered surveyor to become a pastor and soon hit upon financial difficulties.

He said the salary was "modest" and paid "erratically". The family eventually resorted to paying for groceries with credit cards, despite Julian taking on a second job in a factory to help make ends meet.

"Being in debt is a massive taboo subject especially for a church leader – who can you confide in? You worry that your ministry will be affected if people in your church learn of your struggle," he said.

Stephen Mathews, senior consultant at Stewardship, agreed that the topic of personal debt can be taboo in many churches.

Matthews called for "open and honest" discussions between church employers and employees.

"Church ministers who struggle with personal finances can perceive that their ability to teach on money and finances is seriously affected," he said.

Stewardship is urging any church worker struggling financially to contact Christians Against Poverty for their free debt counselling service.