For generations, the Black church has unified, inspired and empowered African-Americans. And as I think about what my faith has meant in my own life and in the lives of so many in the African-American community, one treasured Bible verse comes to mind: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your God in heaven.” During my decades in the pulpit, I quoted or heard someone else quote this verse more times than I can count. It is a worthy approach to moral living and has been so for more than 2,000 years.
Following the release of a report about the plight of the financially underserved families in our local community, state and nation, this Bible verse serves as a reminder that all of us have an opportunity to light the way for others and help them join the financial mainstream. Shining a light on financial education and technology offers us an opportunity to do just that.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), more than 32 percent of households in the Norfolk area are either unbanked or underbanked, meaning they have no or only limited access to traditional banking services. Instead, these families often rely on costly, and sometimes predatory, alternative services like check cashiers, pawn shops and payday lenders to conduct basic financial transactions.
While an improvement from the last report released two years ago, there is still work to be done. The FDIC’s report sheds light on the challenges facing the more than 213,000 households here in our region that exist on the financial margins of society. And the FDIC also notes that these challenges disproportionately affect minority households. It makes me think of the opportunities that exist to help these families better access their money in today’s increasingly cashless economy. Increased financial education is important, but it must be combined with solutions that can make a real difference. That’s why the Baptist General Convention of Virginia joined forces with Master Your Card (MYC), a community empowerment program that helps to bring to light opportunities for education and information about electronic payment technologies to those who need it most.
For instance, technologies like payroll and prepaid cards open the door to greater financial access. These cards operate much like debit cards, but do not require a bank account. Cardholders can pay bills and bargain shop online, and even receive their wages through direct deposit. And many of these cards are compatible with smartphone apps, offering the ability to make mobile payments, and create and track a budget.
In addition to helping consumers better access their money, electronic payments offer opportunities for churches to manage their funds and budgets more efficiently. By adopting these technologies for both payments and collections, churches can be even better stewards of the money they are entrusted to use wisely.
That’s why, working with MYC, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia hosted a workshop at its annual conference on how electronic payment technologies help churches to streamline bookkeeping and even increase parishioner giving.
I am proud of the work being carried out within churches and communities to make a difference in the lives of others.
For more information on this community empowerment program, visit www.masteryourcardusa.org
The Reverend David L. Chapman is a retired pastor, interim executive minister of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and a member of the Master Your Card African-American Advisory Board.