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First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens to Hold Free Debt Management Conference

The conference is also the kickoff of the "Billion Dollar Challenge", a yearlong national effort in which participants will aim to pay down a total of $1 billion dollars in debt.

Do you need help with managing a student loan, finding a way to pay down a credit card or saving money for a house?

If so, Rev. Deforest B. Soaries Jr. of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens wants you to come see him.

This weekend, the church will host its first "dfree: Lifestyle Weekend Symposium," a free, two-day conference that will address ways for people to manage their personal debt and finances.

According to the church, the conference is being held on the two-year anniversary of the airing of a CNN documentary called "Almighty Debt" in which Soaries' "dfree" program was featured.

According to the church, "dfree" is a program that aims to help households better manage their finances and live without debt.

This weekend, the conference will address a number of topics.

  • A Saturday morning discussion will be in the theme of economic justice, and will address the danger of payday loans and similar lending schemes that come with high interest rates and are hard to pay back, Soaries said.
  • Financial counselors will be available on Saturday to meet with participants one-on-one to discuss anything they need assistance with, such as homeowner loans, student loans, credit card debt, or insurance.
  • A panel will feature church leaders from five states, discussing what methods they have used as a congregation to get their members successfully managing their money.

Highlighting the conference will be the unveiling of the Billion Dollar Pledge on Friday night, a movement that has churches and organizations from all over the country on board, including the NJ Black Issues Convention and Black Enterprise Magazine, Soaries said.

Cumulatively, through best practices and group support, the movement aims to have participants pay down a total $1 billion of their personal debt.

Soaries said the idea for the campaign came from meeting with churches around the country who were running similar financial counseling programs to those of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

"As I moved around the country, leaders and churches were looking for a way to do something together," he said. "Rather than work in isolation, (we can) use an online tool to set a national goal."

Soaries said that the church's involvement in the financial well being of its congregants is an extension of the church's Holistic approach to ministry.

Through the church's counseling program, the problem that comes up the most is related to money, Soaries said.

"The role of the church to help people have healthy lives (and) healthy families," Soaries said.

The "dfree Lifestyle Weekend Symposium" will be held on Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20 at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, 771 Somerset St., Somerset.

Lunch will be served on Saturday.

The conference is free to attend, but registration is requested. To register, visit http://dfree.eventbrite.com, or call the church at  (732) 828-2009.

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