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Clergy Revitalization Grants

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our churches and our pastors in many significant ways. The Board of Benefits Services has been in partnership with the Lilly Endowment for a number of years to examine and address the economic challenges that face our ministry leaders. We knew that the pandemic would have an effect on our clergy, and so we set out to learn the impact it has had.

After conversations with pastors of local churches, chaplains, and regional ministry leaders, we heard a strikingly similar report. Pastors and churches were not facing an acute financial crisis, but without exception our pastors were worn thin and on the brink of burnout. The crisis we identified was that there is a risk of many of our clergy leaving ministry for good. The financial reality behind this was that they didn’t have the additional resources and space from ministry to invest in their own self-care, healing, and equipping for a new era in ministry.

The Grant and the Goal

Through generous funding from the Lilly Endowment, we will award between 60-100 Clergy Revitalization Grants to RCA Ministers (including Chaplains) and RCA Commissioned Pastors. The grant will allow pastors to take paid leave (a minimum of two weeks, but three is recommended) and to follow through with a revitalization plan of their choice. Our hope is that this short period of leave allows clergy the space and resources to begin a journey of health and self-care, giving renewed energy to bless the church with their gifts. We hope that this process creates a healthy dialogue between pastors and churches. Our aim is that this causes both the pastor and the church to choose to invest financially in well-being and self-care going forward. 

Individual and Group Applications

Pastors are welcome to individually apply for these grants, but we have received requests about group applications as well. Because BOBS values learning in cohorts, we are allowing a group application of up to six people. Each pastor will need to submit an application, but a point person should be selected beforehand, and the revitalization plan should be consistent in each group member’s application.

Sample application

Highlights for Pastors

  • The application is short and sweet. We know the last thing you need right now is a lengthy and cumbersome application process.
  • Choose your own adventure: Pick a revitalization program that works best for you. 
  • This leave will not count against your existing vacation or time off for continuing education. 
  • The target grant amount will be $2,000.  Grant requests up to $3,000 will be considered.

Highlights for Churches

  • While these grants are utilized by pastors, they are also for the church! We want all of our churches to have healthy and effective pastors who can serve for years to come. 
  • Funds will be given directly to churches for disbursement. Consistories will agree to and sign the application for the pastor’s revitalization plan.  
  • We ask that churches partner with us in this initiative. 
    • We ask that churches give their pastor 2-3 weeks (preferably 3) of paid leave for this experience, not counted against their existing vacation or professional development time off. 
    • BOBS will provide funds for all of the costs associated with the pastor’s revitalization plan. We ask that churches cover pulpit supply costs for each Sunday that the pastor is on leave. 
    • If the cost of pulpit supply is a barrier to the pastor being able to apply for a grant, the church may submit a letter that details the financial need. The letter can be emailed to clergygrants@rca.org. Some churches may qualify for $600 to cover three Sundays of pulpit supply. Please know that the more churches participate financially, the more grants we can give to pastors. 
  • As if it were a mini-sabbatical, the church will promise not to communicate with the pastor during this leave. 

Highlights for Chaplains

  • Chaplains have been on the front lines from the beginning of the pandemic, and we want you to know that these grants are especially for you.
  • Fill out the application to the best of your ability, and skip any questions that don’t apply.
  • We can’t pay your salary if you take unpaid leave, but we are committed to making sure that as many of our chaplains as possible receive grants that will lead to revitalization.

What Else?

In some cases, the review committee may ask the pastor and consistory/supervisor to make a revision to part of the plan before the grant is awarded.

There are generous but limited funds for these grants. The review committee endeavors to award the grants in an equitable manner that embodies the diversity of the RCA.  

Some Resources to Consider

 

The Reformed Church Center will make available staff and faculty from New Brunswick Theological Seminary to fulfill that position of consultant/spiritual director for RCA ministers who receive one of the Clergy Revitalization Grants, to meet for two or three sessions around/during the mini-sabbatical time at a cost of $50/session (further sessions may be negotiated with the consultant). Contact James Brumm (jbrumm@nbts,edu or 848-237-1760) for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for a grant?

RCA-ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament, including Chaplains, and RCA Commissioned Pastors. Only new applicants will be considered for round 2. Applicants who applied for round 1 are not eligible to reapply. Ministers and Commissioned Pastors who are considering leaving the RCA or whose church is considering leaving the RCA are asked not to apply. These grants are intended to impact the long term flourishing of ministry in the Reformed Church in America.

How do I receive and use the funds?

If you receive a grant, we will send the funds directly to your church (if you are a congregational pastor). You can work out a reimbursement plan with your treasurer or administrator. If you are a chaplain or missionary, we will work with you to figure out the best way to distribute the funds.

How detailed will my plans need to be?

You should be able to articulate what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the costs associated with travel, professional services, retreat fees, lodging, books, and food. Childcare during the leave is also eligible for use of grant funds. If your plan does not feature a retreat with professional facilitators, you’ll need to be specific about who will facilitate the experience and their qualifications (spiritual director, therapist, coach, etc.). Please feel free to be creative and propose an experience that will truly be restorative to you.

How much grant money can I apply for?

The target amount for each grant is $2,000. Grant proposals up to $3,000 will be considered. We ask that applicants balance requesting funds for an experience that will be truly restorative and life-giving (you don’t need to be cheap!) but also keep in mind that we can bless more pastors with these grants if each applicant is thoughtful about the budget they submit.

What is the timeline to take the revitalization leave of absence?

Pastors should take this time off as soon as possible. December 2022 is the deadline for utilizing the grant funds for the first round of grants (February Application). July 31, 2023, is the deadline to use the funds for the second round of grants (August-September Applications).

What is the pastor’s commitment if the grant is awarded?

  • Take two to three weeks (two is mandatory; three is recommended) of consecutive, uninterrupted leave.
  • Unplug from all responsibilities at church or chaplaincy.  
  • Participate in a retreat or self-care program that is professionally facilitated. 
  • Present the plan to consistory or direct supervisor and have them sign off on it. 
  • File a simple follow-up report after the revitalization leave.
What is the church’s commitment if their pastor receives this grant?

  • Allow their pastor to take two or three weeks (two is mandatory; three is recommended) of consecutive, uninterrupted leave. This will not count against the pastor’s vacation time or time off for continuing education. COVID-19 has put an unprecedented strain on pastors, and we view this as a necessary addition to their care during this season. 
  • Agree not to contact the pastor during the leave. Have a plan in place for lay leaders or other staff members to handle emergencies.
  • Pay for pulpit supply for the Sundays the pastor is on leave. 
  • File a simple follow-up report with a plan for the continued care of the pastor.
What is the commitment of a chaplain’s employer?

  • Allow two to three weeks of leave, preferably paid leave.
What are important dates I need to be aware of?

  • The application window for round 1 is February 1-28, 2022. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (EST) on February 28.
  • Grants for round 1 will be awarded to all grantees in March.
  • The application window for round 2 will be open August 15 – September 15, 2022. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (EDT) on September 15.
Have a question?

We are here to help!

Board of Benefits Services
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1606
New York, NY 10115
retirement@rca.org
866-221-5480; FAX: 833-627-7620