Church of God Ministries Announces Clergy Advocacy Resource Effort

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Church of God Ministries, Inc. has received a grant of $1 million as part of Lilly Endowment, Inc.’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The 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.

The Endowment is giving $28 million in grants through this initiative. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to support the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States.

In late November, announcement of the grant funds came to Bob Moss, chief advancement officer for Church of God Ministries. Holding the check in his hands, Moss observed, “This grant empowers us to change systematically the thinking and practices surrounding pastoral compensation in the Church of God throughout the United States. We are grateful beyond words!”

In applying for the three-year grant, the steering committee created a pilot project target group. A recent 2015 national survey of Church of God clergy and church board leaders revealed the vulnerability of younger clergy within the first decade of their ministry career. These were the most likely to abandon their calling for economic reasons. In addition, funds will provide underwriting of educational resources for clergy and church boards, a network of financial counsel, and dollar assistance for specified clergy support.

The title of this initiative is CARE: Clergy Advocacy Resource Effort. The initial development phase began in January with the anticipated implementation of the stated grant programs by mid-year. Under the umbrella of the advancement and domestic teams of Church of God Ministries, Joseph Cookston will serve as administrator of the CARE initiative.

In January 2015, Jim Lyon, general director of Church of God Ministries, received an invitation from Lilly Endowment to apply for a grant that was offered to several church groups in the United States. The purpose of this Lilly grant is to address economic challenges facing pastoral leaders in the United States.

Immediately, a planning proposal was submitted and, within a few weeks, granted by Lilly Endowment. During the next months, a steering committee of eight members went to work planning the research, analysis, and writing phases of grant preparation. Two survey tools were developed, one for clergy and one for church leadership boards, and disseminated electronically to all pastors in the United States. The return rate was significant. In addition, representative couples were interviewed at the Church of God Convention in Oklahoma City last June.

After study of survey analysis, the steering committee elected to give emphasis to a specific group of pastors most at risk in financial matters: younger pastors. Young pastors are more likely to have entry-level positions with accompanying lower entry-level pay, children at home, educational indebtedness, and minimal established financial best practices.

Church of God pastors indicated a strong personal openness to financial education and training. CARE will invest and partner widely in the development of both educational resources and experiences. Partnerships will include national agencies of the Church of God, regional pastors, and financial advisors.

Of the top-ranked financial challenges reported by surveyed pastors, the implementation steering committee selected three assistance challenges to be within the scope of the resources provided by this grant and within the reach of Church of God Ministries leadership. The assistance portion of the grant funds will be structured and administered to address these three challenges: 1) education debt relief, 2) retirement planning assistance and, 3) transition in ministry assistance. Grant stipulations state the expectation for the matching of the assistance portion through new monies generated by Church of God Ministries.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937.

For more information about CARE, contact Joseph Cookston at JCookston@chog.org.

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