ISSUE 2  l  June 2021

It’s a No-Brainer!

“You have helped to shed light on things we have never thought about.” So say many congregational board members who agree to a one-hour coaching session with the ECFPL sponsored board coach.

Two years ago, the ECFPL (CARE) Initiative of Church of God Ministries (Anderson, IN) expanded the reach of finance education to include congregational members who make pastor compensation decisions. The goals of congregational board coaching are two: 1) IRS compliance, and 2) leveraging every available dollar to a pastor’s advantage.

Even when board members have finance experience in the marketplace, most admit that pastor compensation is different, even complicated, and unknown territory for them.

Two themes dominate post-coaching responses. The first is distinguishing the cost of ministry vs. the cost of a minister. One line item, pastor salary, is not adequate or even legal in most circumstances. Compensation budget breakdowns are essential.

The second theme is housing allowance. A recent denomination wide survey revealed that nearly 50% of pastors were not receiving a housing allowance benefit. Board members are saying, “What a huge gift we can give to our pastors at not additional budget impact! This is an 'aha moment' for us because we do want to bless our pastor.”

Board members admit that the cash awards are an amazing incentive to jump start the process. “It’s a no-brainer,” said one board member. One board even attempted to bargain with the coach by saying, “If we give more to our pastor’s retirement account, can we get more grant money?” Joy was evident on the screen at the conclusion of that coaching session.

Board coaching dynamics often begin with distrust, pushback, and resistances of differing natures. However, breakthroughs do occur for lay leaders who affirm and implement best practices in structuring pastor compensation. Our hope: more and more persons will agree, “It’s a no-brainer!”

Joe Cookston
Director CARE Project
Church of God Ministries, Inc.

Equipping congregations to have complex conversations around faith & finances

As we all know by now, it is hard for pastors and congregations to have safe, comfortable conversations about finances. All sorts of factors complicate these conversations, and they can be very fraught (even risky), especially for the pastoral leader. Many of our initiative resource groups are skilled at helping facilitate and provide tools for these kinds of conversations (you can find a list of our ECFPL resource partners and information about their offerings here). Looking outside the initiative, there are other leaders trying to find ways to equip congregations and their leaders to have complex conversations that are life-giving around faith and finances.

Shifting Ground: A grant initiative at Lake Institute, Shifting Ground is working to help philanthropic and faith leaders have meaningful conversations about money and mission in a rapidly changing world. (disclosure: Elise is doing much of her doctoral internship here!)

Oikos Institute: Led by the Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams and friend of our initiative the Rev. Dr. Reggie Blount, Oikos Institute exists to help congregations and communities connect with ecosystems of support for the sake of social impact.

Rooted Good: A team of innovators who are producing resources (including tools for communal reflection on money and mission) to help organizations make positive change. Some of their resources are available with a subscription, but the blog posts and much of the thought leadership is free.

The Ministry Collaborative: A network committed to helping pastors and congregations work creatively and faithfully with their communities. They are thinking a great deal about faith and finance, and the blog series “Digging a Deeper Well” is meant to provide resources for pastors and their leadership teams/boards to have deep conversations about tough issues.

Additional Resources

We’d love you to comment below with additional resources you may know of or may have used to help pastors and congregations have these difficult but important conversations about our faith and our finances. Your email address will only be used if we have questions about the resource you shared. 

Elise Barrett 
Coordination Program Director

May your persevering bear fruit

Before she met and married my father, my mother was an elementary school teacher. My favorite story from that time was a day when the children were not paying attention or behaving well. In her frustration, she took them to task. While she was trying to get through to them, one little girl kept waving her hand. Finally, mom stopped and said, "What is it?" And the child cheerfully blurted out, "Miss Lindaas, Miss Lindaas, we know all these things. We just don't do them."

It has been clear from the outset of this initiative that one of the most important dynamics is open conversation and collaboration between clergy and lay leaders about faith and money. Most of you have spelled that out in your "aims and purposes," and have encouraged it in the design of your programs.

I have recently read your 2020 annual reports. They are unlike other years, of course, due to the pandemic and other disruptive events of 2020. But, although you pivoted in many ways and are more aware of previously-unreached leaders and communities, you have almost uniformly reaffirmed your basic aims and purposes. And one of those is to foster collaborative conversations among lay and clergy leaders.

You express it in various ways. Here are some snippets of quotes from your 2020 annual reports: "...require a three-way partnership with pastor, congregation, and the initiative..."; " provide lay and clergy leaders with practical, innovative, and contextual resources..."; "...over 600 pastors, spouses, and lay leaders have participated in some element..." " create, support and affect a sustainable, for clergy, clergy families, lay leaders, and lay ministry professionals...";"...the Journey is a comprehensive, year-long program that involves spouses and lay leadership..."; ".the Covenant of Programmatic Commitment solidifies the intent of the pastor, the congregational leadership, and the initiative to engage in thoughtful, prayerful, active consideration of issues...";"...the pastor and two key laity form a team...". These are just a few; this clergy-lay collaboration is clearly central to most of the grant initiatives.

But, like the little girl in my mother's classroom pointed out, it hasn't been so easy. Many of you have noted how stubbornly the stigma of silence and shame can persist, and how difficult these conversations and collaborations can be. As one of you put it: "...talking about personal finances is still a taboo for many pastoral leaders...(they are) embarrassed...(and) would have to be honest with self...with spouse...with a church member...about their financial situation." From listening to you, many of you could have written that paragraph in your reports.

You are finding ways to address it, whether through a new monthly column on financial literacy that reaches all the households in your care, or beginning direct conversation with lay leaders in congregations served by pastors in your grant program, or thinking more carefully about appropriate incentives (to cite three examples from your reports).

Yes, clergy-lay partnership is central to long-term health. And yes, it is often difficult to achieve. As one of you wrote: "By far the most important activity of 2020 was persevering." As you seek to encourage and enable clergy-lay collaboration in your initiatives, perhaps that is the best advice of all. May your persevering bear fruit, now and for years to come.

Rick Foss 
Coordination Program Co-Director

We are pleased to share stories of hope from the grantees in this initiative. These were originally produced for our 2020 Team Leadership Gathering. This month, we are featuring the Board of Pensions of the PCUSA.


2021 Team Leadership Gathering

October 6-8, 2021

Lilly Endowment has made the decision to host all 2021 events virtually. We will not be meeting virtually for three straight days. However, please hold these days as we work to determine our format and timing. We will let you know as soon as we can. The invitation will be sent to the director, as is typical, with the option of bringing up to four team members. 

Peer Connections Opportunities

For Directors

These are completely optional conversation opportunities for directors to connect with one another. Topics depend on those who participate and what’s on your mind. All begin at 1 PM Eastern. An invite will be sent to directors the week before each offering. 

           -June 24th          -Aug 2nd                                         -Sept 14th          -Nov 17th 

2022 Team Leadership Gathering & Celebration

November 7-9, 2022

We are so excited to meet in person once again! This event will include both cohorts, even if you conclude in 2021. Directors will be welcome to invite up to 4 team members to attend with him/her.


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