Ministerial Excellence Fund
- 90 percent of pastors in debt report high stress in everyday life.
- Seminary tuition costs have increased over 57 percent in the past decade, almost doubling the Higher Education Price Index.
- Since 2001, the percentage of incoming students entering seminary with more than $25,000 in educational debt has increased by more than 143 percent.
- 20 percent of all seminary graduates in 2012 incurred an additional $40,000 in educational debt while in seminary.
- A majority of clergy report inadequate and stagnant compensation as an economic challenge linked to inadequate savings and debt.
- Over a third of pastors say they have no one outside their household in whom they can confide about the things that stress them financially, according to the 2015 “Evangelical Pastor Study” conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting.
How the Ministerial Excellence Fund can help
The Board of Benefits Services (BOBS) believes that financial burdens carried by pastors are barriers to effective ministry. If we can change this in a positive way, both pastors and congregations will flourish.
The Ministerial Excellence Fund has been used to give grants to pastors to relieve the burden of personal debt. The fund will now expand to help pastors save for retirement. Half of the fund is a generous gift from the Lilly Endowment, and BOBS will match those funds to double the amount to give away. Some grants given will even allow churches and pastors to contribute funds for an even greater grant award. In 2022, the Board of Benefits Services has received a special one-time grant from the Lilly Endowment to offer Clergy Revitalization Grants, which will allow BOBS to partner with local congregations and ministry employers to give our pastors a time of leave to seek self-care and revitalization.
The Lilly Endowment holds this conviction: Financial burdens carried by pastoral leaders are significant barriers to effective, faithful, and fruitful ministry. BOBS couldn’t agree more, which is why it has utilized this fund to help clergy become financially healthy.
Along with distributing money, BOBS will offer financial planning and education to equip pastors to lead well in their ministries.
The Ministerial Excellence Fund aims to:
- Relieve the burden of personal debt for pastors.
- Help pastors get on track with retirement savings.
- Provide financial resources to help pastors afford professional care.
- Equip pastors with financial education so that they may flourish personally and offer financial leadership in the ministries they serve.
- Promote healthier dialogue within the church about money, clergy compensation, and generosity.
- Have long-term sustainability through additional gifts.
Who can apply?
RCA pastors: ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament (including chaplains and specialized ministers) and Commissioned Pastors. The grant covers a range of debt, including student loans, medical debt, credit card debt, and other common forms of debt. Average grants given in the past have been $5,000-$10,000. Grant amounts are based on need and criteria met. Retirement grants will be paid directly into the grantees’ RCA 403(b) account and will require a contribution from the recipient as well. Those who are awarded the retirement kickstart grant will receive $5,000 into their 403(b) account (for clergy working 30 hours or more per week) and $2,500 for clergy who are part-time. To qualify for the retirement kickstart grant funds, clergy must agree to contribute an additional 1% of their total salary into their RCA 403(b) account.
How to apply
Applications are accepted during a specific window of time each year. For more information about the application process, email Billy Norden.
Please only apply for one of the grants.
Applications will be open and received February 1-28 (due by 4:00 p.m. EST).
*Please do not fill out and submit the PDF application. These are for previewing the application only so that applicants know what to expect when preparing to complete the application.
For questions about the grant, the application process, or to donate additional matching funds, contact Billy Norden, retirement and financial education coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help us achieve long-term sustainability by donating to the Ministerial Excellence Fund. Your gift will be matched, which will allow us to help relieve pastors’ debt for many years.