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Why Should You Attend Financial Peace University?

One of the opportunities we provide to empower our participants and community members is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  This nationally acclaimed program gives individuals resources to take control of their finances, work towards being debt free, and the privilege of being generous.  Statistics in America show us:

  • Average Household Income: $56,516
  • Average Household Debt: $187,187 (Mortgages, Student Loans, Auto Loans, Credit Cards)
  • 76% of people live from paycheck to paycheck
  • Average household wastes 24% of their take-home pay on consumer debt.
  • 64% can’t cover a $1000 emergency
  • Money problems are one of the top 3 reasons for marital problems and divorce

FPU has proven to be a game-changer in helping improving people’s financial outlook.  Dave uses conventional wisdom along with Biblical principles to spell out ways to experience freedom in this area of their lives.

  • God wants us to be wise stewards. “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest” (Proverbs 3:9).
  • God doesn’t want us to be in debt. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7).
  • God wants us to be generous, and to allow our finances to be a part of His plan in the world. “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
  • God wants us to prosper. “Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground…” (Deuteronomy 30:9).  [*NOTE: “prosperous” doesn’t necessarily mean “rich” and doesn’t only apply to finances]
  • God want us to experience peace. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6: 31-33).

Every paid participant will receive an FPU membership kit with the student manual (9 sessions), course CDs, FPU “wallet,” and other valuable money management tools.  Read here to learn more about our next course, starting September 20th. 

4 WAYS SALT & LIGHT PARTNERS WITH CHURCHES

4 Ways Salt & Light Partners with Churches

Our mission here at Salt & Light is sharing the love of God by fighting poverty with opportunities that empower people for lasting change. As we work to accomplish this mission every day, we partner together with many groups, individuals, and organizations in the community, and some of our most important partnerships are with churches.

A partnership, by definition, is an arrangement in which both parties make a contribution, and both parties reap the benefits. As churches enter into partnership with Salt & Light, the contributions they make are often easy to identify—financial support, material donations, and volunteer service—and these have clear benefits for the organization. But it’s often less clear what contribution Salt & Light is making in these partnerships that would help to benefit churches as they fulfill their own mission. Here are four important ways that Salt & Light wants to partner with your church in the shared work of Kingdom-building in our community.

Salt & Light can help the people of your church:

  • develop spiritually healthy attitudes toward material wealth, poverty, and possessions. Our culture views poverty as the simple lack of material things. For people of faith, a close study of the Scripture paints a picture of poverty as much more than a solely material affair. Poverty of status, poverty of relationship, poverty of being, are all treated as an equal part of true poverty in the eyes of God. In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert paint a picture of poverty as a brokenness that can apply to any of our foundational relationships with God, others, ourselves, or our possessions. Author Bryant Myers describes it as “the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” Working together with our participants at Salt & Light, truly getting to know those who lack material resources, helps bring a real-life understanding of the way those resources fail to define our true poverty or wealth. With this understanding, we can know that our material possessions can never truly make us rich. Therefore, having them or losing them isn’t of primary importance in our lives. Mutuality and generosity become more important. We can understand that fighting poverty means more than just helping others accumulate money. We can hold what we own more loosely. We can walk away from the need to control others in the area of their material possessions, or value them based on their material wealth.
  • develop a spiritually healthy view of themselves. If poverty is actually something we experience in all areas of life, and not just a material lack, then poverty is something we all experience. All of us carry some degree of brokenness—none of us are in the place of fullness that God intends for us. Understanding the true role of material possessions in determining wealth and poverty will not only help prevent us from undervaluing others based on their material lack, it will also help prevent us from overvaluing ourselves based on our material abundance. Our financial gifts and material donations are important and helpful contributions, but as we volunteer and shop alongside others in Salt & Light’s buildings, we’ll see many others who are making contributions just as valuable, with their time, ability, wisdom, joy, and the sacrificial giving of the limited resources they have. We’ll begin to understand that it’s not our gifts that cause lasting life change in others, but the opportunities they help to create for others to use their gifts as well.
  • develop spiritually healthy relationships with others. No one wants to be someone else’s project. But if poverty is something we are all experiencing, then the path to abundance—material, relational, and spiritual—is something we are all walking together. The ability to grow and learn from each other in relationship is most effective when it is mutual—when each person knows that they are accepted by the other as they are, as equals, who both have something to contribute and something to learn. Salt & Light’s model is built for community participation on equal footing; it is a not a system that requires impoverished recipients and wealthy benefactors. Every person in your church who gets involved here will be part of a system in which everyone is making a contribution that is equally valued, as they shop, volunteer, and share. This means everyone is also a recipient of all the benefits of the relationships, learning, and community that are built here.
  • develop a spiritually mature understanding of the gospel. The message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation—of coming into right relationship. God wants to bring us into right relationship with him, and as a result, into right relationships with others, with ourselves, and with material creation. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made ambassadors of the Kingdom, but to effectively fulfill that responsibility, we must understand the nature of our message. The good news of the gospel is that we are all poor and broken, and we are invited into a Kingdom that is offered only to the poor. Through our work here at Salt & Light, we are able to see ourselves as all equally broken, all equally impoverished, but all equally loved, chosen, and sought after by God. The practical ways that we work together here to create opportunity, sharpen skills, build community, and meet needs, are all ways that we move together toward that reconciliation in all areas, as we learn to more fully live out the heart of the gospel.

The staff at Salt & Light works with churches to do small group presentations, tours, special events and projects, monthly engagement, and even sermon series that can support your congregation’s work in these areas of discipleship, generosity, and spiritual growth. We would love to talk with you further about opportunities to partner with your church.

3 WYAS BUYIN GROCERIES AT SALT & LIGHT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COMMUNITY

3 Ways Buying Groceries at Salt & Light Will Transform Your Community

It’s a common misconception that Salt & Light’s grocery and thrift store is not open to the public. We often find people think either 1) Our store is only for those in need, or 2) If they shop in our store they are taking things from people in need.

Both of these could not be further from the truth.

In fact, without people shopping in our store our model simply will not work. We need at least 400 families to buy half of their groceries at Salt & Light to make it all work. In a community our size this is certainly not an insurmountable number.

Our store is stocked with a mix of name brand and generic options like you would find at most of the stores in our community. This inventory is continually replenished just like at any other store, so no need to fear items not being available for our participants earning credit.

Here are three ways buying your groceries at Salt & Light not only helps, but also will actually transform our community:

  1. You help those in need.

In addition to our educational programming, your purchases help to fund the store credit participants earn when they work/volunteer at Salt & Light. When participants volunteer they earn store credit they can spend in our grocery and thrift store to acquire the resources their family needs. Our one of a kind program provides access to basic needs like food, clothing, and household items in a model that reinforces the capacity of the individual while affirming their dignity in the process. By shopping at Salt & Light you make this possible.

  1. You increase the economic impact of your shopping.

Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, services providers, and farms – further strengthening the economic base of the whole community.

This is certainly true at Salt & Light. We purchase as much as we possibly can from locally owned businesses, and even source an ever-growing amount of our produce from local farmers. This is something the superstores and big box groceries simply don’t do.

  1. You invest in our community.

Unlike the superstores and big box groceries, Salt & Light is heavily invested in our community. Every level of leadership at Salt & Light is made up of people who live in the community—people who have a vested interest in working everyday to help make it a better place for everyone to live. Because we are your friends and neighbors we understand the community, and care deeply about how the decisions we make impact it.

Our vision is to see every person growing their God-given potential. It’s not about profits for us. It’s about empowering people to realize the fullness of who it is they were created to be, and in the process affecting lasting change their lives that not only changes their situation, but also transforms our community.

 

The bottom line is you have a choice where you buy your groceries. The question is,

“Will your choice only feed your family or will it also help someone in need to feed theirs?”

WHY S ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY SO IMPORTANT?

Why Is Access To Technology So Important?

Among the greatest advances in technology in the last quarter century, the personal computer and the Internet would be near the top of that list. Imagine the panic, anxiety, and chaos that would occur if the web were to go down for an even an hour.

But for 25% of the population with the lowest income, the interruption would be barely noticeable.  Updated computers, tablets, smartphones are luxuries, much less actual broadband online access. 

Why should internet disparity be a concern?  Because it may actually play a role in keeping poor people poor by cutting off access to:

  • Government benefits and services.
  • Employment pathways. 80% of Fortune 500 companies, including Target and Walmart, only accept job applications online. 
  • Educational opportunities and resources. More and more schools are assigning homework that requires internet usage.  Research show us that students who have Internet access have graduation rates 6-8% higher than those who don’t.
  • Comparison shopping in order to find cheaper products, services, and rates. Consumers can save almost $8,000/year finding discounts on essentials like apartment rentals, clothes, gasoline and food.
  • Time saving online tools which frees up time for other activities.
  • Sources of knowledge and information for research, medical advice, day-to-day repairs, etc.
  • Relationships and even employment can be enhanced by social media.
  • Productivity and developing skills useful for the marketplace.

Our Technology Center at Salt & Light will make these invaluable resources available to our participants and neighbors.  We hope it becomes a place of collaboration sparking creativity, innovation, and imagination.

Instruction will be available in basic word processing, how to utilize the web, internet security, social media, and other essential computer usage.  Lab monitors will be on hand to assist with need that may arise.

More Than a Store

More Than a Store

Salt & Light is more than a store. 

Now, you won’t see it when you walk into Salt & Light.  No, when you walk in you will see a store.  We have clothing, shoes, furniture, and households.  There is a changing room in the back.  There are cash registers up front.  We have groceries, fresh produce, frozen items, and awesome sales everyday.  There are dozens of staff and volunteers here to serve you as you make your purchases.  We are a store that’s open for everyone.  That you can clearly see.  And we need you to shop. 

 

Our store is here to serve you.  It’s also here to serve us.  See, at our core we are a ministry.  Our desire is to share God’s love by fighting poverty and it’s damaging harmful effects to individuals, generations, and to society as a whole.  We do this by empowering people with new and fresh opportunities that lead to lasting change.  Our desire is to see people become the people God desires them to be.  They then bring change to their family line and to the community they reside in.  The store is where this happens. 

 

Salt & Light is a training ground.

Poverty is a complex creature and fighting it one must take a multifaceted approach.  One way we do this is by opening up opportunities, like vocational training and education.  The prospect for on the job training here is huge and the possibilities continue to grow!

  • Administration/office
  • Dispatch
  • Clothing processors
  • Retail
  • Grocery
  • Customer service
  • Warehouse
  • Professional internships
  • Merchandising
  • Delivery

In each of these departments one can learn a variety of skills.  Teamwork, problem solving, self management, and computer skills are just a few examples.  Non for profit groups, schools, and even churches have found this to be true and use Salt & Light a safe place to train the people they work with. 

People also come to us on their own initiative seeking help.  We call the people we work with directly “participants” as opposed to “recipients” or “clients.”  Participants fill out and keep their own schedule, they clock in, they work as a team, and they work (really hard).  Our participants gain useful skills and vital self-confidence through daily encouragement.  

Salt & Light restores dignity.

Our participants are called so because they are actively engaged in meeting their own needs.  Participants earn $8.25 in store credit an hour and can earn up to $165 a month.  With that they can choose what food they will put on their table or even which table they are going to put in their home. They provide what they need by their own efforts.  That’s something that many are robbed of in most poverty alleviation efforts.  Though done with the best of intentions, when one in need is handed something without any costs, week after week, it is unintentionally communicated that they have nothing to offer.  We have found that free is actually costly.  It demands the recipient pay with dignity.  We fight poverty with dignity.    

Our participants are meeting their needs.  Their spirit is refreshed as they do so.

We also work with many people who may never find work outside of Salt & Light.  Disabilities limit their job choices.  They don’t lack resources as much as they lack purpose, yet another form of poverty.  Salt & Light meets this need as well.  You can see it in the eyes of “the least of these” when they proudly say, “I work for Salt & Light!”

Salt & Light is a community. 

When you walk into our store, you might not see at first glance that we are more than a store.  But if you listen, you might hear it:  “This is my home away from home.” 

I’ve never heard, “This is my happy place…” at a big box retail store.  Here at Salt & Light, if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – “this is my family.”  This truly is a place where community happens and not just for our participants.  Customers, donors, staff, and volunteers have found this place to be their place.  Why?  At our core, if we are anything, we are relational. 

We have found that lasting change happens at the relational level.  According to Dr. Thomas Sowell, isolation is a major contributing factor to the poverty problem.  People in poverty lack strong social networks and/or they don’t have the same access to knowledge or methodologies that other “successful” groups have.  Doing life together opens up a new world with new possibilities. 

More simple than that, people are more open to help a friend than they are a stranger.  You might not cross a street for a stranger…you’ll move mountains for a friend.  And, yes, even a struggling person needs to trust the one who is trying to help.  A cold handout won’t change the world.  Love will.  We are relational.   

And that’s what makes this place unique. 

Jesus said it: “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  You Can’t buy that in a store. He can’t merchandise that. You can’t even teach that in customer service. And that’s why we are not just a store.  We are Salt & Light.

Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Dennis Rose

volunteer spotlightDennis has been a valuable member of our volunteer team for almost two years!  He has worked in both locations and currently helps keep our grocery shelves organized.  But Dennis’s biggest role is that of friend.  He greets everyone as if they have known each other for years and makes each person that walks through our doors feel welcomed and important.

Dennis says he loves being the “clown” of the team and particularly loves working with Nicolas (Grocery Manager) and Mike (Retail Director).  According to Dennis, “Salt & Light is my big family.”  We are grateful for Dennis’s heart and contribution to our ministry.

5 WAYS TO SUPPORT SALT & LIGHT TODAY

5 Ways to Support Salt & Light Today

  1. SHOP.  Both locations are open to everyone in the community.  When you shop in our stores, you are not taking anything away from people in need.  100% of sale proceeds help us buy our food, run our store, and offer the member credit that lets financially struggling people shop in our stores right alongside you.
  2. DONATE GOODS. We rely on your generosity in order to stock our thrift areas.  Both locations have a donation drive-thru for your convenience and are open during all business hours.  Volunteers will happily help you unload your car and offer you a tax receipt.
  3. DONATE FINANCIALLY.  Our goal is to become self-sustaining but we are not there yet.  Sales from our grocery and thrift areas are growing but so are the needs of our community.  We desire to give each person that wants to become a credit-earning member a chance to do so.  We need your financial support so that we can continue to offer meaningful opportunities to our participants.
  4. VOLUNTEER.  One of the more difficult assets to sacrifice is our time. But we would not make it without our amazing community partners who come in groups or individually on a regular basis simply to give back.  Volunteering side by side with our participants and building relationships with them is a priceless investment. Whether you’re interested in helping with a single event or serving on a regular basis, give us a call and we will find the right place for you!
  5. PRAY. Ministry is difficult, messy, beautiful, and sacred.  Your prayers are needed and felt by our staff, volunteers, and participants.
the real question of poverty

The Real Question of Poverty

 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about poverty.  It seems like there is ongoing controversy about what can be done to help those in poverty.  Although lots of people from all kinds of different philosophical and religious backgrounds feel it’s important to help the poor, and all are approaching the issue with good intentions, just as with most things that are truly important, there are strong disagreements regarding how to go about it.  I don’t mean to minimize the efforts of all those who are working hard and often making great sacrifices to do what they feel is in the best interests of America’s poor, but I wonder how often we are jumping the gun by debating the question of methodology before answering a much more important question.  I think that before we can truly know anything about how to help those in poverty, we first have to ask, exactly what is poverty?

what really matters

What Really Matters?

In Matthew 22, we find this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees:

34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

While most of us in the church are very familiar with this passage, our application of it can vary wildly—especially the part about loving your neighbor as yourself. Certainly, there is plenty of latitude here for a broad range of applications; however, I fear the diversity of application has less to do with theological interpretation than it does our desire to make it fit our personal conveniences.

To love someone like Jesus is talking about requires action, and not a passive when it’s convenient for me kind of action, but a relentless till it hurts kind of action. It is one thing to wax eloquently about our convictions on Sunday morning, but an entirely different thing to not only be inconvenienced by them, but actually sacrifice something on their behalf.

We serve a God who sacrificed everything. Who loved us so much, He sent His son to die. If our love costs us only marginally, how deeply can it possibly run?

Hunger isn’t What You’ve Been Told it is Part 2

salt and light ministries Urbana, IL

hungry          adjective / hun·gry / ˈhəŋ-grē

  1. a: feeling an uneasy or painful sensation from lack of food: feeling hunger (merriam-webster.com)

In Part 1 I revealed the misleading marketing used by those benefiting from the
hunger mythology, and how that marketing has influenced misperceptions of the realities of hunger in the U.S. These misperceptions have prevented the public from
1) understanding the real problem our communities are facing, and therefore, 2) fairly evaluating the efficacy of the programs we have employed to address it.

At a minimum, this misleading marketing is a serious breach of the public’s trust,
and more seriously, it is a disservice to the individuals who struggle to meet this basic need.

In the ten years Salt & Light operated as a typical food pantry what I came to realize was the majority of individuals standing in our food pantry line were not facing crisis situations requiring emergency relief. Instead, they were more often in a state of chronic need—which required a more developmental solution. Something else I learned through my own experiences was that if you intervene in a chronic situation with an emergency intervention (giving stuff) you develop dependency and create entitlement. Period. More importantly, one-way giving models to address chronic need diminish and disempower the very people they are trying to help.

So what are we to do?

Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs. Many people do need support, sometimes significantly, if they are to affect lasting change in their lives. The question isn’t whether or not people need help; the question is, “What is the best way to help?”

The reality of poverty is that it is very complex. For every family we encounter at
Salt & Light there are multiple factors contributing to their material poverty. From systemic injustices to personal choices, no two situations are exactly alike, so no one solution is going to “fix” it. Therein lies the problem. Not only are the programs we have employed to address poverty generally unhealthy, they do not allow for individualizing our response. An emergency room where every patient was treated as though they suffered from the same ailment would be unfathomable, yet that is exactly how we have approached poverty alleviation—and the results have been devastating.