The Endowment is giving $28 million in grants through this initiative. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States.
As the statewide charitable foundation for the United Methodist Church, the Missouri UM Foundation already provides scholarships for seminary students. “The Lilly funding will allow us to address a much broader range of clergy financial issues ranging from student debt to financial literacy and retirement,” states Foundation executive director David Atkins.
“We want our pastors to succeed in fruitful service to others,” says Atkins. “This project will bring more resources and support to that ongoing priority.”
The Missouri United Methodist Foundation is one of 27 organizations taking part in the initiative, which represents a variety of Christian traditions, including Baptist, Catholic, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of God (Anderson), Episcopal, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Wesleyan churches, as well as non-denominational, and historic African-American Christian communities. They include denominational pension and benefits boards; local and regional denomination judicatories, such as synods and dioceses; and denominational foundations.
Each program is customized to the needs of pastoral leaders in each religious tradition, but the programs have much in common as they:
- provide incentives for clergy to take part in personal finance education
- offer low-or no-cost financial planning and counseling
- match contributions for pastors and congregations that enroll in pension savings programs
- help pastors create emergency funds
- develop strategies that help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt
- create new scholarships so that seminarians borrow less while in school
“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 Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These organizations understand the importance of the financial well-being 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 well-being of pastors and their congregations.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.