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CBF initiative now accepting applications for debt relief grants for pastoral leaders

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October 12, 2016

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is now accepting applications for CBF pastoral leaders to receive grants up to $10,000 to relieve financial burdens impacting their effectiveness as part of the CBF Ministerial Excellence Initiative.

The Ministerial Excellence Initiative is designed to help pastoral and congregational leaders identify and respond to financial stressors causing anxiety. Studies have shown pastoral leaders cannot perform at maximum excellence when worried about personal or congregational finances. Congregational leaders also cannot make informed, strategic decisions when burdened with financial pressures.

The new CBF initiative is focused on three commitments:

  • CBF believes congregations flourish when pastoral leaders are empowered to minister and lead.
  • CBF partners with pastoral leaders and congregations to understand and to help to overcome the economic barriers that impede their mission.
  • CBF equips pastoral leaders and congregations by providing a variety of resources including financial education, coaching and grants.

The Ministerial Excellence Initiative provides funding for personal debt relief for qualifying pastoral leaders in the Fellowship, and it also identifies resources and provides training events to aid in managing and maintaining financial integrity for both the pastoral leader and the congregation.

“We anticipate a sense of personal and congregational renewal, revitalization and commitment to informed financial management,” said Bo Prosser, CBF’s coordinator of organizational relationships and initiative leader. “Our goal is to stimulate a sense of confidence and increased knowledge in the lives of our pastoral leaders and congregations.”

Applicants will be evaluated according to their level of active engagement with CBF, affirmation of all required covenant activities, completion of initial financial consultation and financial need related to CBF’s primary focus area of debt, health benefits and retirement benefits.

In January, CBF announced that it had 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 nations as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively.

The Lilly Endowment gave $28 million in grants to more than two dozen faith-based organizations through the initiative as part of its commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States.

A 2015 survey of more than 600 pastoral leaders in 30 states revealed a broad and deep burden among many leaders within the Fellowship. The survey found that financial literacy in the areas of budgeting, benefits and retirement, as well as debt management are barriers that impede the progress and efficiency of pastoral leaders within the Fellowship.

From these findings, CBF announced that it was establishing a Ministerial Excellence Fund in partnership with the CBF Foundation to provide matching funds of $500,000 for long-term sustainability. The Ministerial Excellence Fund will provide grant awards for immediate debt relief of pastoral leaders, as well as financial consultation, coaching sessions and other educational programs for recipients.

These efforts will be embedded in existing CBF programs and ministries. Peer Learning Groups as well as the annual leadership Institute held in conjunction with CBF General Assembly and the ChurchWorks conference for Christian educators will all provide resources for educating clergy and congregational leadership with the goal of building awareness, capacity and sustainability so that a long-term commitment to economic stability will be integrated into the culture of call and service across the Fellowship.

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter praised the initiative and said the grant will create additional capacity for CBF to help form healthy churches across the Fellowship.

“Healthy leaders form healthy congregations,” Paynter said. “Pastoral leaders can be negatively impacted by the stress brought about by the debt they carry. The initiatives that this grant undergirds will help ensure the vitality of local congregations by helping to ensure the health of pastors. That’s a game changer.”

To learn more about the Ministerial Excellence Initiative and submit an application, visit www.cbf.net/mei.

Other questions or comments? Contact the Ministerial Excellence Initiative at mei@cbf.net.

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CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry eff­orts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

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