As the leader of a small Wesleyan church in Eastern Indiana, Pastor Randy was saddled with $40,000 in debt as he tried to pay off student loans and car payments incurred by his family of seven. He worked two jobs to just make ends meet.
Like many pastors in the United States today, Randy works long hours. He shepherds the flock of a church that draws roughly 40 worshipers on Sundays while taking home relatively little pay.
Facing $15,000 in credit card debt and owing $25,000 on three car payments, Randy also earned income working as a bus driver. But even between the two jobs, Randy says it took nearly every penny he brought home to pay his bills.
But unlike the pastor who served at this church before him, Randy will not be forced to live out his retirement in government housing. Although some concerns were present when Randy began serving the church two decades ago, he let his financial burdens be known to lay leaders in his congregation.
Because of that discussion over seven years ago, Randy’s church and denomination helped his family pay off their enormous debt in the course of a few years and have also ensured that his future will be well taken care of through an adequate pension plan and financial stewardship education.
“They helped tremendously by matching what we would pay on our credit card debt,” Randy, who asked that his identity not to be revealed, told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “Because of that, we paid off $15,000 in a year-and-a-half’s time. The church really stepped up and helped us in a tremendous way.”
Randy’s church is one of many that has teamed up with the Wesleyan Church — a Protestant denomination of about 1,600 churches — to make sure their pastors are well taken care of when many pastors today are earning less than $50,000 a year and working more than 50 hours each week.
While the Wesleyan Church has been working for the last several years to help financially-struggling pastors through its Thrive Financial Initiative, the denomination is joining 11 other denominations and counting in a newly launched movement this summer called the “Bless Your Pastor” campaign.
The campaign was launched in July by the National Association of Evangelicals, an association of over 45,000 churches from 40 different denominations.
The campaign is backed by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to respond to the financial struggles facing clergy in the U.S. The movement aims to encourage church boards and churchgoers nationwide to find tangible ways to bless their pastors and their families in ways that don’t tax church budgets.
The movement calls on churches nationwide to not only take up a special offering for their pastor but also advises churchgoers on applicable things they can do or provide to make their pastors’ lives a little easier at a time when there are many financial concerns.
While some congregants have given things of monetary value to their pastors like money, unwanted cars or gift cards, others have offered services like providing free baby-sitting so their pastors can have a date night, free medical checkups or performing extensive home repairs to spare their pastors from thousands in labor costs.
“In Scripture there are times that there was a call for the people of God to be generous,” Brian Kluth, national director of NAE Financial Health and spokesperson for Bless Your Pastor campaign, told CP. “And people responded gladly. And that’s what we’re hoping that this movement does, that when people hear about these ideas, they’ll respond gladly.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith