December 20, 2016

With the summer crowds gone, October can be a lovely time to visit Branson. This year, United Methodist clergy had the opportunity to combine a visit to this Ozark retreat with some timely education and professional development – and the Foundation was pleased to be able to underwrite much of the expense. 
    
Spanning three days, the Clergy Benefits Academy hosted more 220 clergy from across the country, including 75 Missouri pastors, at the Branson Hilton Convention Center. The Foundation reimbursed all Missouri clergy for two hotel nights. 
    
“This is an outstanding program, and I would not have made time to come without the hotel incentive,” was a common sentiment expressed by attendees to Foundation Executive David Atkins. Atkins noted that “we were delighted to partner with Wespath and the Missouri Conference to encourage attendance. As part of our ongoing Lilly Endowment initiative, we hope to bring this and related programs to Missouri on a more regular basis.” 
    
The Benefit Academy was open to clergy and clergy spouses of all ages and stages of ministry covering topics such as clergy tax law, health insurance, financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, estate planning and healthy lifestyles. 
    
With its recent grant from the Lilly Endowment’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, the Foundation has established the Clergy & Church Financial Ministry (C2) within the Missouri Conference.     
    
C2 is developing education, counseling, and coaching services to assist clergy to grow personal and professional financial management skills, get out of debt, manage healthcare costs, save for children’s needs and plan for retirement. “The Benefits Academy was a terrific opportunity for the Foundation’s C2 initiative to roll out some resources in 2016,” states C2 director Chris Bouchard. “We added some evening programing to the event, and we hope to build on this year’s success.”
  
In addition to educational programming, C2 will be providing direct aid to clergy to assist with specific needs. “The Foundation must raise a dollar for every direct aid dollar distributed from the Lilly funding,” states Atkins. “To support this worthy effort, please contact the Foundation office at 800-332-8238 or make a gift online at mumf.org/give-now.”