BGCT receives $1 million for church health initiatives 

Cody Knowlton, president and CEO of Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, presents a $1 million grant for a church and ministerial health initiative to David Hardage, Baptist General Convention of Texas executive director; Elizabeth Biedrzycki, South Texas regional coordinator; and Dowell Loftis, director of Texas Baptists' Connections Team. (BGCT Photo / Jordan Parker)

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The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio awarded a $1 million grant to the Baptist General Convention of Texas to fund health initiatives for South Texas churches and their ministers.

Over five years, the grant will be used for three initiatives—a “pastor to pastors” staff position to develop deeper interpersonal relationships with area pastors; a financial relief fund to offer financial aid to alleviate stress and anxiety for pastors; and church health conferences and retreats, designed to strengthen awareness and knowledge around holistic health services and practices.

“We are grateful to the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio for their generous investment and entrustment to Texas Baptists to provide for the health of our church leaders in South Texas,” BGCT Executive Director David Hardage said. “We know this $1 million grant will help alleviate the financial burden of many ministers and provide for the long-term health of our congregations.”

Pastors face financial, emotional and spiritual challenges

In 2016, Texas Baptists conducted a statewide survey showing 30 percent of pastors acknowledge being under financial stress, 40 percent work more than 60 hours per week, and 17 percent work more than 70 hours a week.

Responses indicated pastors without seminary degrees statistically find themselves with even more setbacks. On average, they serve congregations of about 76 people, 44 percent do not have retirement funds, and the average annual compensation is $26,115.

The financial, emotional and spiritual struggles led Texas Baptist leaders to seek ways to minister to church leaders and help alleviate some of the burdens. They felt the indicators the survey revealed directly affect the health not only of the pastor, but also the congregation and the community.

“The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio is honored to partner with Texas Baptists to improve the health of church leaders in our community,” said Cody Knowlton, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer.

“By meeting the needs of pastors in South Texas, we know this will strengthen churches, which will allow them to better serve our communities. We agree with Texas Baptists that when a pastor is healthy, the church is healthy, and if the church is healthy, the community is healthy.”

Grants makes possible three initiatives

The BGCT plans to fill the pastor to pastors position with a seasoned minister who has extensive pastoral experience and can serve as a shepherd to shepherds. The role will function as a mentor/coach/spiritual leader to pastors by gauging, monitoring and aiding leaders toward spiritual health, while considering other factors such as financial strain and relational, emotional, mental and physical health.

The financial relief fund will be matched with Lilly Endowment funds annually to alleviate financial stress of pastors and churches. Since many pastors work bivocationally and serve small congregations, when significant financial needs arise, they often are left without options.

In an effort to generate awareness and education around holistic church health, Texas Baptists will offer learning and spiritual renewal experiences for churches and pastors through church health conferences and retreats.

Through the collaborative work of various Baptist institutions in the San Antonio area, funding from Baptist Health Foundation and BGCT staff efforts, these new initiatives will launch in 2019.

“Portions of the proposal have been hopes and dreams of certain Baptist institutions in our area for a long time,” said Elizabeth Biedrzycki, Texas Baptists’ South Texas regional coordinator, based in San Antonio.

“I’m grateful for the generosity of the BHFSA and the cooperation and collaboration of institutions in this region to develop learning and equipping opportunities for local churches and local church leaders. I believe South Texas will be better because of this work.”

For more information about these new initiatives, contact Biedrzycki at (210) 269-9400 or by email at elizabeth.biedrzycki@texasbaptists.org.

 

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