Pastors Have Debt. A New Lilly Grant Lets BOBS Do Something About It.

Date Posted: 
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Board of Benefits Services (BOBS) of the RCA has been awarded a second grant to address financial struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively. The grant, awarded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., totals just over $820,000.

“This grant will allow us to invest time and resources into the ongoing financial well-being of our pastors including addressing debt and developing financial and retirement educational resources,” says Kelly Oliveira, executive director of BOBS.

Primarily, the grant extends the Ministerial Excellence Fund, which helps pastors relieve the burden of personal debt. Between the grant money and matching funds from BOBS and donors, BOBS will give away more than $1.25 million over the next three years to relieve or eliminate debt for RCA commissioned pastors and ministers of Word and sacrament. This money is awarded through a grant process; applications will be accepted February 1–29, 2020. To receive a notification when the application window opens, email clergygrants@rca.org.

The grant also provides resources to help ministers financially prepare for retirement. BOBS will work with resource partners of Lilly Endowment, Inc. “One of the initiatives we are most excited about is partnering with Everence,” says Billy Norden, BOBS’s retirement and financial education coordinator. With so many unknowns in retirement—how much to save or whether to get insurance in addition to Medicare—having access to this level of information and experience, especially experience with pastors and their families, is a huge asset to RCA pastors. “Everence has certified financial planners familiar with clergy finance, who can walk pastors and their spouses through a comprehensive financial plan, including budgeting, insurance, investing, tax planning, estate planning, retirement, and charitable giving,” Norden explains.

The grant also expands the Frank Williams Fund, an endowed fund that assists pastors during medical emergencies.

“We are looking forward to gathering and sharing the stories of pastors being released from debt, which will increase their capacity to lead in generosity and stewardship,” says Oliveira.

This grant is phase two of the Lilly Endowment, Inc. National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. BOBS received its first grant from Lilly in 2015, and used that money to lessen pastors’ personal debt, offer financial planning, and educate pastors to offer financial leadership in their ministries. It also offered learning communities focused on increasing generosity in congregations. BOBS reapplied for the grant to extend the Ministerial Excellence Fund and to equip pastors for stronger financial health.

“I’m most excited that this grant will help us to move from financial crisis care, to holistic financial health for our pastors and churches,” says Norden. “By reducing everyday stress about finances and building a sense of confidence in their financial future, our pastors will be able to more fully live into their call.”

For more information about the Ministerial Excellence Fund, click here.