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God's banker

Christian finance expert Mel Griggs is helping people through the credit crunch...

FORMER banker Mel Griggs believes his Christian faith is inspiring him to help debt-ridden people out of the financial wilderness.

The 61-year-old is running courses and workshops offering practical advice about how best to manage money in the light of the credit crunch.

He is also training clergy across the York area in financial matters to help them provide leadership and guidance to their congregations.

In a career spanning 35 years, Mel rose from being a junior cashier to area director for TSB (now LloydsTSB) in charge of 135 branches.

"I believe that God has put me in this situation to give people hope," he said.

"My faith says that it isn't enough to believe – it has to be put into action. I believe God has given me the gifts to communicate issues relating to how best to handle your money.

"For many people on the courses I run it's about survival and working out how they get through the next week and pay the bills."

Mel's journey of faith began when he met his wife Judy, who is a committed Christian. He accompanied her to church on Sundays and later attended a men's group called Agnostics Anonymous which debated all things spiritual.

Mel said: "My journey to faith was a long, slow pot roast. When we moved to York in 1990 and started going to St Mike's Church I slowly realised that it had become increasingly important to me. I needed to go to church before facing the next week and it wasn't long before my faith started to grow."

Working on behalf of independent charity Family Matters York, Mel's events and courses look at the impact of the economic downturn and rise in fuel and commodity prices on every day life. Participants are given personal expert advice on how they can put together a detailed, realistic budget and provided with information on how to reduce expenditure and increase income.

Mel said: "My role is to get alongside people who are struggling to manage their money.  I realised that instead of waiting for them to fall off the cliff, it would be better to build a fence to stop them falling off in the first place. I don't believe that it is only those who know that they're in debt that need help - many, many others are heading in the same direction. We need to worry less about  improving our standard of living by borrowing and more about the quality of our lives."

Mel, who has three children, used his financial gifts to work as a volunteer for the Citizens' Advice Bureau on his retirement and later became treasurer at St Michael's.

"In six years working for the Citizens' Advice Bureau I saw situations that I never did working for the bank. There were a lot of desperate people. I wanted to help them take control of their money so it didn't take control of them. My message is that there will be some pain, but don't be a victim – you can do something about your situation. Dealing with people in debt all the time is not always a lot of fun but it's my calling."

For more information about Mel's work contact Family Matters on 01904 636767.