SAN ANTONIO, TX–The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio (BHFSA) awarded a $1 million grant, to be used over five years, to Texas Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas) focused on church and church leaders’ health initiatives in South Texas. Funds from the grant will be used for three initiatives including a Pastor to Pastors staff position for developing deeper, interpersonal relationships with area pastors; a Financial Relief Fund which will offer financial aid to alleviate stress and anxiety for pastors; and Church Health Conferences and Retreats which will create new learning experiences 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,” said Texas Baptists Executive Director David Hardage. “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.”
In 2016, Texas Baptists conducted a statewide survey showing 30% of pastors admit to being under financial stress, 40% work more than 60 hours/week and 17% work more than 70 hours/week. Responses also indicated that pastors who serve without seminary degrees, statistically find themselves with even more setbacks. On average, they serve congregations of about 76 people, 44% do not have retirement funds, and the average annual compensation is $26,115.
The financial, emotional and spiritual struggles led Texas Baptists leaders to seek ways to minister to church leaders and help alleviate some of the burdens. As a convention, Texas Baptists felt the above indicators directly affected the health of not only the pastor, but the congregation and, therefore, the community in which it resides.
“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, BHFSA President and CEO. “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.”
The new Pastor to Pastors position, hired by Texas Baptists, will be held by a seasoned minister with extensive pastoral experience, as a shepherd to pastors. The role will function as a mentor/coach/spiritual leader to pastors 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. As many pastors are bi-vocational and their congregations are small, when significant financial needs arise, they are often left without options.
Finally, 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, the funding from BHFSA, 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 on these new initiatives, contact South Texas Regional Coordinator Elizabeth Biedrzycki at 210-269-9400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.