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Stories about community | Next Generation Radio at USC Annenberg 2016

In South LA, black churches serve as financial institutions

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On Sunday mornings at Ward AME Church in South Los Angeles, Pastor John Cager invites his congregation to come forward to the pulpit. It’s offering time.

Christianity teaches its followers to give 10 percent of their income, or a tithe, to the church. The money goes to the church’s upkeep and provides charity to those who need it.

Although tithing is a religious practice, Cager wants the lesson to carry on past Sunday morning. He hopes the church’s predominantly African American congregants are able to walk away with a better understanding of how to manage the other 90 percent of their income that doesn’t go to the church.

In black communities, like South L.A., the church can be one of the few places for lower-income people to turn for financial education. To better serve their congregants, some pastors are now going through training programs to teach valuable money management skills.

At Ward, budgeting tips are folded into the sermon. And Sunday school is an opportunity to bring in financial advisors and teach members how to pass the wealth down to the next generation.

The black church is poised to take on this challenge. Cager says the church has always been more than just a faith institution, and will continue to be so.

“Financial literacy is important for everyone, but for people of color it is critical and the black church has historically been the vehicle for educating and empowering our people,” Cager, the pastor of Ward AME, says.

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