CHICAGO, IL (January 22, 2016) — The ECC has received a $1 million grant as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The $28 million initiative supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively.
Each program is customized to the needs of pastoral leaders and provides incentives for clergy to participate in personal finance education, create new scholarships, and help develop strategies to help pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt. At the request of ECC pastors, the ECC program will include personal financial coaching. The start of the financial coaching program begins at the Midwinter Conference next week; coaches provided by Covenant Trust Company.
Ann Wiesbrock, Covenant Trust Company president, said that based on surveys of pastors and focus groups, “The Covenant will use the grant to educate ministers on managing personal finances, equip churches to better understand church and pastoral finances, develop a library of financial health resources that include vetted partners, and deploy a pastoral financial advocate and team to champion the initiative.”
Wiesbrock added, “Through this work we envision a pastoral community that feels comfortable talking about money in the church, as well as pastors and lay leaders free to serve wholeheartedly, unrestrained by personal financial worry.”
The initiative has the potential to “profoundly affect the ECC’s pastoral leadership,” Wiesbrock said. “And as leadership is positively impacted, the local church is strengthened.”
“Pastors, especially those just beginning in ministry, accept low salaries as part of their commitment to God and to church. Many enter ministry with significant debt from their undergraduate and seminary years and often have little financial resiliency when financial emergencies arise,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These organizations understand the importance of the financial wellbeing of pastors and the implications for the congregations they serve.”
An additional grant to the Indianapolis Center for Congregations will establish a coordination program for the initiative that will help the Endowment track success. It will bring together leaders of the diverse programs to foster mutual learning and support and help build a network of organizations committed to supporting the financial wellbeing of pastors and their congregations.