We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs. We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.
The Economic Community like many others is multi-layered, but I believe the core about what is in the Economic Community of our United Methodist Social Principles is how money is distributed. We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. Throughout this section of our Social Principles there are sections about property, collective bargaining, work and leisure, consumption, poverty and many more. Let us consider how the economic community impacts our lives and how we can pass that learning onto teenagers in our ministries.
John Wesley years ago had a woman that came by his house asking for helping financially and he answered with, “No, I am sorry; I don’t have any money to give you.” After that the woman left his home and went on her way. John felt very troubled by that encounter as he looked around his home and saw all that he had. John Wesley thought how sad it was to have so many possessions and not have any money to give to those in need. This experience prompted him to write his 50th sermon, “The Use of Money.”
In this sermon John surmises that as disciples we should gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. What is interesting about his theory is that when John says “gain all you can,” he doesn’t necessarily mean to gain completely for your own income, but to gain all you can so that you can give all you can to those in need.
This idea completely and unequivocally contradicts the American Dream. Our nation was built with this dream that there would be a place where people would be free to live, worship, and be as they would like. A place where all are welcome from all around the world. However, this dream is very much an individualistic dream. A dream that solely focused on earning as much as you can for you and only you so you can have that nice house, nice car, nice life. John Wesley’s idea completely contradicts this and actually infers that you are not earning for yourself – you are earning for others in need.
This is not to say that you don’t need to earn for yourself; that is absolutely not what Wesley is saying. I think this application will explain what Wesley is trying to tell us about money and the economic community.
There is a phrase that I was once taught by a family member. You have to control your money, or your money will control you. Money is an amoral part of creation; it is neither good nor is it evil. Dollar bills are just pieces of paper until they are giving a value by the treasury. So it is just a piece of paper, but that piece of paper tends to control many parts of our society. What would happen if we changed our perspective? What if our perspective was to live on as little as possible so that we can give as much as possible? Can you imagine the policies and programs we would create if this was our perspective?
This is the truth about the UMC’s belief when it comes to the Economic Community. It all starts with perspective and our perspective as United Methodists is that our focus should be more on helping others than hoarding money for ourselves, and we need programs and policies to reflect this belief and focus.
So how in the world do we teach this to our teenagers in our youth ministry programs?
One of my favorite ways to teach this is called Grocery Shopping for Dinner.
This is a small group activity for your youth group to do on a Sunday night, Wednesday night, or even at Bible study. This application is great, but it is most effective in the small group setting. You will need to split your students into 3 or more groups, and each group should have about 5 students each. The groups need to be as evenly numbered as possible. Each group gets some cash to spend on dinner that night, and you as a group will go to a local grocery store where each group will buy dinner for their group that night. The following could be how you organize it:
Group One: $25
Group Two: $15
Group Three: $10
Group Four: $5
The most important part about this: don’t tell them they can’t work together. Also, just as important: you cannot encourage them to work together. The idea is that they come to the understanding that we can all do this together or separately. Spend about half an hour at the grocery store and then head back to your first meeting area.
Allow the group to eat the dinner they purchased.
Discuss their experience. At the end of their experience explain if they didn’t work together that they could have. You will usually have some work together and some not. The whole point is to illustrate that this is a reality check for how the world is. Some people have much and some have nothing. What we have is ours to use and give. So we can either journey separately or we can journey together in a community.
At the very end of the night share the following quote:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Then close your group by asking for prayer requests and then close in prayer.
As always my prayers are always with you and your ministry. If you have any prayer requests I would love to pray for you and help you in any way I can. We youth workers and disciples need to stick together in the love and grace of Christ. Please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com so that I can pray for you and help you in anyway I can.
Thanks for all you do for the Kingdom of God!
Grace and Peace,
Bradley W. Alexander
Director of Student Ministries