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How Faith Can Sustain You During These Challenging Times -

And what churches are doing to help.

The pressures of this world and these challenging times have led more people to turn to their local houses of worship for help. Churches nationwide are finding themselves having to rise to the occasion to provide support, counseling and assistance to their current members and even non-members in their communities.

Don't Be Ashamed to Ask for Help

If you are in need, explore the resources available at the church where you attend. Don't be shy or ashamed to ask for help. The African American church has historically been a source of help when there were no other avenues or options. It still is. And if you are not a member of a church, you should consider joining one. The spiritual support you will receive will be valuable in strengthening you to keep on keeping on.

Contact your minister and tell him about your situation. He will be aware of the services and resources that will help - whether it's financial help, addiction help from drugs or alcohol, mental health issues - whatever your need is. If you attend a large church, discuss your situation with a deacon. Some churches are being very proactive and assigning members to take on roles as financial counselors and career counselors. Many are offering workshops and seminars to help members of the church and community develop or update resumes and offering foreclosure prevention resources if your home is in jeopardy.

Shifts In Sermons and Services

There's even a change in the types of sermons that pastors are delivering. They find themselves charged with providing those in the pews with bible-based messages of encouragement to keep the faith and keep hope alive --- despite it all.

"We've see people, who had been living pretty well become terrified. Now they come to church to try to find answers," said a church member in Chicago.

Pay It Forward

Keep in mind that just as people are hurting financially --- so are churches. As people lose their homes and incomes, church donations and contributions also take a deep decline. If your church assists you --- pay it forward. Try to stay current with your tithes so that the church can provide help to someone else, just as they helped you. If you do not have enough to tithe money, tithe with your talents and skills. Help out in the food pantry, or volunteer to pick up members who do not have cars and take them to church.

"The church has no more resources than from the parishioners from which it comes," said Dallas' Bishop T.D. Jakes in an interview with the NNPA News Service. "And so, when the parishioners are in straits, churches are in straits too. And so it puts us in a bit of a precarious situation. Membership has gone up. Income has gone down."

Those who have been blessed enough to weather this financial storm can really step in and help. They can share their knowledge and teach others how to manage their finances. They can share their wisdom on how to keep a close rein on expenditures and always save for a rainy day. They can teach young mothers how to grocery shop and plan meals to stretch their dollars. And most importantly, they can help their church with financial gifts so the church can continue to help others during these challenging times.