The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation have each received grants of $1 million 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 nation as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively.

The Endowment is giving $28 million in grants through this initiative. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States. 

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), like other mainline denominations, faces declining membership, growing financial challenges for congregations and a need for pastors who are inspired and equipped to bring a new spirit of faithful leadership to congregations.

The Board of Pensions administers the church pension and benefits plans and addresses the spiritual, physical and emotional, financial and vocational well being of pastors through resources such as seminars, e-learning opportunities and financial assistance. It will use the grant for a pilot project in three adjacent presbyteries in North Carolina designed to foster supportive relationships among congregations, pastors and PC(USA) agencies.

Existing programs will be aligned and new ones developed to educate and otherwise better address the financial concerns of pastors and congregations. A Ministerial Excellence Fund will be developed as a source for sustaining financial assistance for pastors. The ultimate goal will be to implement the project across the denomination.

“We believe that enhancing and sustaining the quality of ministry are essential to maintaining strong congregations,” said the Rev. Frank C. Spencer, president of the Board of Pensions. “This grant will enable us to develop programs to relieve pastors’ financial concerns, freeing them to devote their best gifts and energies to the work of God’s kingdom.”

The Foundation’s work through this grant will address the many financial challenges that diminish the effective ministry of pastoral leaders in their professional sphere. Research has shown that economic challenges result from an array of professional issues that are theological, staff-related, systemic, personal/political, and technological. All of these elements must be addressed to help the church build healthier understandings and practices of church financial administration and leadership.

The Foundation will use its grant to do the following:

  • Assemble a body of educational materials and tools for effective church financial administration and leadership and make them available to both pastors and lay leaders.
  • Develop a comprehensive overhaul of the PC(USA) congregational stewardship system (i.e., how Presbyterians view and raise funds for ministry and mission.)
  • Strengthen the technological means to deliver training, tools, and resources for pastoral and congregational leaders.

“The programs we envision will not only offer immediate assistance to an array of pastoral leaders, they will enable the development of long-term, adaptive solutions which could quite literally transform the way Presbyterians talk about and deal with finances,” said Tom Taylor, President and CEO of the Foundation. “This is a transformation which has long been needed in our denomination — and likely in many others as well.”

The Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation are among 27 organizations taking part in this Lilly Endowment initiative. The organizations represent a variety of Christian traditions, including Baptist, Catholic, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of God (Anderson), Episcopal, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Wesleyan churches as well as non-denominational and historic African-American Christian communities. They include denominational pension and benefits boards; local and regional denomination judicatories, such as synods and dioceses; and denominational foundations.

Each program is customized to the needs of pastoral leaders in each religious tradition, but the programs have much in common as they each do one or more of the following:

  • Provide incentives for clergy to take part in personal finance education.
  • Offer low- or no-cost financial planning and counseling.
  • match contributions for pastors and congregations that enroll in pension savings programs.
  • Help pastors create emergency funds.
  • Develop strategies that help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt.
  • Create new scholarships so that seminarians borrow less while in school.

“Pastors, especially those just beginning in ministry, accept low salaries as part of their commitment to God and to church. Many enter ministry with significant debt from their undergraduate and seminary years and often have little financial resiliency when financial emergencies arise,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These organizations understand the importance of the financial well-being of pastors and the implications for the congregations they serve.”

An additional grant to the Indianapolis Center for Congregations will establish a coordination program for the initiative that will help the Endowment track success. It will bring together leaders of the diverse programs to foster mutual learning and support and help build a network of organizations committed to supporting the financial well being of pastors and their congregations.


About the Board of Pensions
The Board of Pensions is the agency legally responsible for administering the pension and benefits programs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is required by law to administer these programs for the sole and exclusive benefit of its participants and members, and is governed by an independent Board of Directors, elected by the General Assembly of the Church.

About the Presbyterian Foundation
A vital part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Foundation gathers, stewards, and disburses financial resources of individuals and institutions in service of Christ's mission.

Lilly Endowment Inc.
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.