Q&A: Addressing Financial Anxiety

Q&A: Addressing Financial Anxiety



Copastor of Missions & Outreach at Jubilee Baptist Church (Chapel Hill, NC)


Q: Why is education / career such a dividing line for the emotional stability of adults, especially for today’s 18–35-year-olds? Where do you think some of these feelings stem from? 01

In our society, you need money to do the most basic things like eat, acquire housing or even look for work if you don’t have it. People without employment probably feel a lot of anxiety or stress. Even though I have a full-time job, I know how it feels to worry about an upcoming bill. Additionally, our society places a ton of emotional weight on the ability to provide for oneself. We often give it a moral understanding around a person’s commitment, devotion and ability. Unemployed people and students have a double bind: They feel the pressures of failure (or potential failure in the case of students) combined with the sadness of not living up to a standard about their commitment and ability imposed on them.

Q: Your church is experimenting in providing debt relief and debt forgiveness as a primary function of its ministry. What are other ways you’d like to see ministries provide practical support to address young adults’ concerns about debt and economic anxieties? 02

Churches have to shift from a standpoint of, “How do we help people struggling with these things?” to “We struggle with these things, so how do we help each other?” Often, people don’t want to acknowledge that they struggle with their finances. We need to start talking about such matters. In conversations about debt, I have no problem telling congregants how much I owe in student loans, credit card and other debts.

One practical way churches can help people would be to acknowledge two parts of the problem: A lot of people are in trouble financially, and (this one is key) it’s not their fault. More and more Millennials understand that we got a raw deal, generationally. Things cost more and jobs pay less. I would advise church leaders to resist the standard answers to economic and financial problems—financial counseling in particular. A lot of Millennials know that these efforts only reinforce a go-it-alone mentality when we need communal resources and an imagination that allows us to expand our ideas about what we can do together, whether that’s paying off each other’s debts, organizing a union or taking political power to use our institutions for all people, not just an elite few.

Back to the Study

Life in an Anxious Age

Read Section