Pastor Bert Sigala has faithfully served Primera Baptist Church in Waxahachie for five years. He has a strong love for his church and devotes much of his time and energy to caring for those in his congregation. Sigala also worked as a teacher for 17 years. After three years of balancing pastoring and teaching, Sigala felt that he did not have enough time to fully devote himself to his ministry.
So, Sigala felt that he needed to step away from teaching to focus on the church. The church, excited about Sigala’s passion, offered him a full-time salary later in the year. The Sigalas were able to pay their bills each month, but they were unable to pay off the debt they had incurred from losing his teaching income.
“It was on my mind all the time. We were able to cover our bills, but we weren’t able to pay off the [debt],” Sigala said.
Sigala frequented the Texas Baptists website to stay up-to-date with the latest events and programs Texas Baptists offered. While on the site, he found the Center for Financial Health (CFH). Led by Director Tammy Tervooren, CFH provides support for pastors through grant funds, low-interest loans and financial literacy resources. One of those grants is the Ministers Financial Health Grant, a grant designed to help pastors struggling with debt and bills.
The Ministers Financial Health Grant allows eligible Texas Baptists pastors and church ministers to apply for a grant that will be matched by their church.
Sigala and his wife, Janala, were relieved to discover that there was a resource that would guide them out of the mounting debt. He reached out to Tervooren, who guided him through the application process. As part of the process, Sigala was connected to a financial counselor.
“I think the financial counseling was just as beneficial, if not even more, than the actual financial help,” Sigala said. “The counselor said, ‘my business is to help pastors. A lot of time pastors think about everyone else before they even think about themselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but we want to train our pastors so that they are aware of their expenses and what it’s going to take to pay for everything.’”
The financial counselor helped the Sigala family review their assets and provided encouragement. Sigala recalled the counselor reading Scripture as they made decisions and praying often. He explained the importance of pastoral financial stability with a parable found in Luke 14, which speaks to the importance of having your resources in order as a disciple. The counselor helped Sigala understand that being in control of his finances served not only him, but his congregation, as he was able to then focus more on ministry and less on stress.
Sigala and his deacons also attended a weekend retreat designed to teach financial literacy. CFH requires that at least one member of the church joins the pastor at the weekend retreat so that the church can understand how to support their pastor best. Sigala said that the weekend retreat inspired him to share the biblical lessons he learned with his congregation.
“I was so excited,” he explained. “I came back and we did a sermon series on being faithful stewards. Finances were the very last sermon in that series, but we looked at time and family, and everything that God gave us.”
Refocusing on ministry
Thanks to the grant and the financial counseling they have received, the Sigalas will finish paying off their credit card debts in summer 2020. Sigala has also decided to take on a part-time job at an airline out of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Unlike his teaching role, his new job has low, flexible hours that do not interfere with is ministry.
Working for the airline also allows Sigala access to discounted tickets, which he is planning to use to fly a mission group to Honduras once international travel resumes following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sigala is relieved about the peace he has found through the grant and financial counseling. Instead of wondering how his family will manage their debt, he is able to focus on Bible studies, sermons and ministry for his congregation.
The Ministers Financial Health Grant is open to Texas Baptist pastors struggling with debt and financial security. Sigala encouraged any pastor curious about the grant to reach out to CFH.
“For those pastors that are the same situation we were in, where they’re always thinking about their bills, I would encourage them to reach out to Texas Baptists, because what they are doing is standing in the gap for us and assisting us financially,” he said. “I would encourage them to seek out the counseling as well, because it really changed our mindsets.”
To learn more about Texas Baptist Center for Financial Health, visit txb.org/cfh.