$1M COMPASS Initiative to address financial, economic health of pastors

The COMPASS Initiative steering committee met with a 10-person Grant Advisory Committee in May and June 2016 to identify financial difficulties faced by pastors and congregations.

The Church of the Nazarene received a $1 million grant as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.'s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

The initiative supports a variety of religious organizations across the U.S. as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair pastors’ ability to lead congregations effectively.

In December 2015, the Church of the Nazarene was invited to submit a grant proposal along with 20 other denominations and religious organizations. A steering committee, consisting of General Secretary David Wilson, Stewardship Ministries Director Mark Lail, Global Clergy Development Administrative Director Stan Rodes, and Nazarene Research Director Dale Jones, was formed to give oversight to the research and planning process. The steering committee invited retired Intermountain District Superintendent Stephen Borger to chair the grant planning and writing process.

Over the next several months, Nazarene Research conducted a survey of Nazarene pastors, associate pastors, and lay leaders across the U.S. to identify financial difficulties faced by pastors and congregations. The steering committee discussed the survey results during meetings at the Global Ministry Center in May and June 2016  with a 10-person Grant Advisory Committee selected to represent ministers and churches across the U.S.

The survey revealed one-third of active pastors and associate pastors in the U.S. Church of the Nazarene describe both their personal finances and the local church finances as “stressful,” and a similar percentage have considered leaving the ministry because of financial stress. Surveyed lay leaders also expressed great concerns for the financial challenges facing their local churches. 

More than 75 percent of pastors and associates wanted and felt they needed more training in all 11 financial literacy and management categories included in the survey questions.

In response, the steering and advisory committees identified seven specific areas of financial challenge to focus on in a three-year project called The COMPASS Initiative — Creating Opportunities for Ministers to Practice and Advocate Skilled Stewardship.

The COMPASS Initiative will use a two-fold approach to address pastors’ most pressing financial difficulties: a Financial Literacy, Management, and Well-Being program, which includes training through workshops, webinars, and events, as well as a Ministerial Excellence Fund, which will provide monetary support for student debt, consumer debt, and retirement readiness for U.S. pastors and full-time associate pastors.

“The Board of General Superintendents enthusiastically supports this initiative to resource and support pastors,” said David Busic, chair of the Board of General Superintendents. “We are grateful to the Lilly Endowment for this significant investment in the Church of the Nazarene.”

Borger said the Church of the Nazarene is committed to do what it can to help ministers and local churches flourish economically.

“As a preacher’s kid growing up in Iowa, a pastor for 25 years, and a D.S. for 13 years, I have experienced personally and observed in the lives of many others the financial challenges that our ministers face,” Borger said. “I know that the work we are doing to address those challenges will be a great blessing.”

Don Walter, Pensions and Benefits USA director, sees potential beyond COMPASS’s initial benefits.

“This initiative addresses significant financial concerns that affect both clergy and their congregations,” he said. “We are particularly hopeful it will enable churches to provide their ministers with improved compensation, retirement readiness, and adequate life and disability insurance protection.”

Borger, who was recommended by the steering committee and approved by the Board of General Superintendents, will lead The COMPASS Initiative as director.

“I am honored to have been asked to serve as the director for The COMPASS Initiative,” Borger said. “As I begin to work with our team on the programs that will be established and think about the grant funds that will be available over the next three years to our pastors and full time associates, I believe The COMPASS Initiative will make a significant impact in a large number of ministry families and in local churches. It is also our goal that the benefits of the initiative will continue on for many years to come.” 

Information about The COMPASS Initiative application process and available resources will be released in the near future.

“The USA/Canada Region is grateful for the confidence and generosity Lilly Endowment Inc. has shown in making this grant to the Church of the Nazarene,” said Bob Broadbooks, USA/Canada regional director. “As these funds are used through The COMPASS Initiative to enhance our ministers’ stewardship, we celebrate the fact that the whole church will be encouraged and the Kingdom will be blessed.”  

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons J. K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. Lilly Endowment's religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

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