By Fred Koenig
“Across the country ministers are grappling with financial issues that adversely affect their personal lives and divert attention from their work,” states a report published by the Lilly Endowment. The Indiana-based charitable foundation is now focusing efforts nationally to identify and better address the economic pressures on pastoral leaders and their congregations.
“We were delighted to receive a planning grant to develop services for our Missouri clergy,” commented David Atkins, executive director of the Missouri UM Foundation. The Foundation is one of only 23 organizations invited to take part in the national Lilly initiative, and one of only two UM organizations – the other being the UM General Board of Pensions.
Atkins’ current focus is on an initial survey of Missouri’s UM pastors. “TAKE THE SURVEY will be our drumbeat over the next few weeks, including at the Annual Conference. We hope at least 80% of active pastors will complete this brief online questionnaire which will inform our planning and programming.”
“We are even offering a coffee incentive!” laughs Atkins. “Our research assistants at the University of Missouri tell us this kind of encouragement boosts survey participation.”
Ultimately, there are two focus areas: 1) education, and 2) emergency assistance. “We will develop, coordinate, target, and enhance educational opportunities for clergy and lay leadership in the areas of personal financial management and professional financial leadership. We will also seek to offer immediate relief relating to debt, healthcare, family crisis, or other acute need.”
Atkins is encouraged by the results of a Lilly pilot project in Indiana. “The Indiana United Methodist Foundation has done wonderful work through its program titled Rejuvenate. Their experience and counsel has been invaluable.”
Visit the Foundation website: www.mumf.org to learn more about the project – and if you are a pastor, to Take the Survey!