Texas Baptists Ministers Financial Health recently celebrated the distribution of $1 million in funds provided by an initial three-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Over the past three and a half years, these funds have provided matching grants, low-interest loans and financial literacy training to over 175 Texas Baptists pastors and ministers to increase their financial health and wellness.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Tammy Tervooren, director of Ministers Financial Health. “Healthy pastors equal healthy churches and part of being healthy as a pastor is having financial stability. It’s important that the church talks about and supports pastors’ financial health so that they can be most effective in their ministries.”
“We celebrate with you as you mark $1 million invested in your pastoral leaders,” said Elise Erikson Barrett, Coordination Program leader for the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, an initiative of Lilly Endowment Inc. “This initiative aims to release pastoral leaders from financial barriers... and free them for joyful, empowered ministry. That is exactly what you are doing. We pray that you, pastors and lay leaders together, will continue to engage in spiritually healthy and mutually trusting conversations about faith and money.”
Providing support and education
Ministers Financial Health, formerly the Center for Financial Health, started distributing funds through matching grants at the beginning of 2018 and later added low-interest loans in 2020. For pastors receiving grants, the funds from the Lilly Endowment have been matched by a variety of sources, including investment funds, the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation, the Mary Hill Davis Offering, the High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation, the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, local associations, churches and pastors.
“We must raise matching funds before we can distribute any grant money, so it’s been neat to see everyone pull together to get the match and help pastors on their journey to financial health,” said Tervooren.
All pastors who have gone through the grant and loan program have also received financial literacy training and one-on-one financial counseling. A network of over 80 financial counselors walks with pastors through their financial growth journey, providing advice, assisting with training and advocating for pastors in financial discussions with their churches.
“We want to help create a healthy relationship between pastors and their churches,” said Tervooren. “To do this, we’re trying to raise awareness and educate churches as much as we are educating pastors about the importance of giving pastors time to rest and providing enough for them to be financially healthy.”
Ministers Financial Health provides several online resources to help educate both pastors and churches on topics like budgeting, healthcare, financial planning, retirement and more.
At the beginning of 2020, Ministers Financial Health received a scaling grant from the Lilly Endowment for an additional $1 million to continue expanding its ministry. Ministers Financial Health is also in the process of applying for a third grant to ensure the continued positive impact of this ministry in the years to come.
“Our prayer for these funds is that they would provide additional support for pastors affected by Covid,” said Tervooren. “This includes more emergency relief in addition to sabbatical programs to help pastors who are experiencing burnout. We want to provide incentives and make it as easy as possible for churches to offer time off for pastors who have been under insurmountable pressure over the past year and a half of Covid.”
According to Tervooren, even though many pastors were experiencing financial uncertainty during 2020, Ministers Financial Health actually saw a decrease in applications for the grants and loans programs last year.
“Pastors were overwhelmed and just trying to stay afloat navigating the challenges of last year. There just wasn’t the extra time to go through the grant process while dealing with Covid,” said Tervooren. “We are anxious to continue reaching pastors and ministers with information about how these programs can be a blessing to them and their churches.”
In 2019, Ministers Financial Health conducted a follow-up study of all pastors who had gone through the program, in which 100% reported that it brought them hope for their financial future.
“There is a lot to be thankful for as we celebrate this milestone,” said Tervooren. “It’s great to know that Ministers Financial Health, and the volunteers and partners that have joined with it, are helping resolve pastors’ financial concerns. Ultimately, our hope is that this means more pastors being financially healthy and staying in ministry.”
To learn more about Ministers Financial Health, find online resources or apply for a grant or loan, visit txb.org/mfh.