Lilly grants CBF $1 million to address economic challenges pastors face

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DECATUR, Ga.—The Lilly Endowment awarded the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship a $1 million grant as part of its national initiative to address economic challenges facing pastors.

The grant will enable CBF to develop financial literacy programs for congregations and pastors in four focus areas identified in a survey of 600 pastoral leaders in 30 states last summer—budgeting, benefits, retirement and debt management.

CBF will establish the Ministerial Excellence Fund in partnership with the CBF Foundation and will provide matching funds of $500,000. The Ministerial Excellence Fund will provide grants for immediate debt relief of pastoral leaders, as well as financial consultation, coaching sessions and other educational programs for recipients.

Additionally, CBF will work to embed these efforts in existing programs and ministries. Peer learning groups, as well as the annual leadership institute held in conjunction with CBF general assembly and the ChurchWorks conference for Christian educators, will provide resources for educating clergy and congregational leaders. The goal of those efforts is to build awareness, capacity and sustainability so a long-term commitment to economic stability will be integrated into the culture of call and service across the CBF.

“We are honored and excited to be included in this important initiative,” said Bo Prosser, CBF coordinator of organizational relationships, who will serve as CBF’s grant administrator.

“With this grant, we will be able to help our pastoral leaders better understand their finances, as well as the economic challenges of their congregations. Money is the most avoided subject in our churches. This grant will open up communication and deepen understanding in facing the complex issues of money, economics and a theology of stewardship. We are grateful for the opportunity to deepen our relationships with congregations and congregational leaders in the years to come.”

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said the grant will create additional capacity for CBF to help form healthy churches across the Fellowship.

“Healthy leaders form healthy congregations,” Paynter said. “Pastoral leaders can be negatively impacted by the stress brought about by the debt they carry. The initiatives that this grant undergirds will help ensure the vitality of local congregations by helping to ensure the health of pastors. That’s a game changer.”

The Lilly Endowment is providing $28 million to religious organizations across the nation as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively. CBF is one of 27 organizations taking part in the initiative, which represents a variety of Christian traditions

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