By Carl Stagner
Earlier this year, Church of God Ministries was invited by Lilly Endowment to apply for a grant to extend the fruitful ministry of CARE—Clergy Advocacy and Resource Effort. The week of Thanksgiving brought with it news that a $500,000 grant has been awarded to carry on the program until at least 2021. No longer an initiative, the program known as CARE has been so well received by the Church of God movement that the goal is to sustain the work indefinitely. CARE 2.0 will bring with it continued engagement of pastors and congregational boards in pastoral retirement assistance and educational debt relief that have become synonymous with the program since it began in early 2016.
“It has been a joy to watch the program take root and gain traction in the movement,” Joe Cookston, CARE project director, explains. “The response from recipient pastors has been deep gratitude. It has been a game-changer for many pastors and their boards.”
In a very practical sense, CARE has given life and hope to ministers in the Church of God, demonstrating that the movement really does care for its own. The program has hit a nerve, meeting real needs that younger-in-ministry Church of God pastors face. That’s why the commitment of Church of God Ministries leadership is to see the program outlive the Lilly grant.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the prayerful and financial assistance of congregations and individuals across the Church of God, as well as the diligent work of Church of God Ministries’ Joe Cookston and Servant Solutions’ Ryan Harter. Lilly offered a sustaining grant because of the program’s faithful stewardship of their funds. Since the launch of the program, about 150 grants have been awarded to Church of God ministers. The amount of funds given away—with no strings attached—is approaching $500,000.
“That’s $500,000 that had not before been available to Church of God ministers,” Joe points out. “These funds have been deposited into their retirement accounts, helped bring down student debt, and provided assistance for ministers in transition. Thanks be to God for his wonderful provision to Church of God pastors through the generosity of Lilly Endowment. We rejoice, and we anticipate even more opportunities to bless our pastors in the years to come.”
Learn more about CARE at www.jesusisthesubject.org/care.