In response to the urgent problem of clergy educational debt, the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ (Pension Boards) and the National Setting of the United Church of Christ (UCC) have entered into partnership to raise $3 million across the wider church in support of clergy financial wellness. This collaborative fundraising effort, the first of its kind collaboration, reflects the ministries’ shared commitment to holistic wellbeing of those who serve the church.
“The National Setting is excited to partner with the Pension Boards in this effort to help meet the needs of authorized ministers in the 21st century church,” said UCC General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer. “Many UCC clergy are entering ministry burdened with undergraduate and seminary debt and serving in settings with limited financial resources.”
A survey commissioned by the Pension Boards revealed that educational indebtedness for UCC pastors is significantly higher than in other denominations and impacts ministers of all ages and settings. Coupled with often insufficient income to service this debt, anxiety over personal finances erodes the effectiveness of their leadership and ministry.
In response to this deepening need, in 2017 the Pension Boards created the Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI) with a $1 million Lilly Endowment grant. Now in its third year, the program has provided 90 UCC authorized ministers with personal financial skills and the support of facilitated cohorts to address the burden of educational and consumer debt. In late 2019, the Pension Boards was awarded a $1 million expansion grant from Lilly to build on the success of the initial grant and further the Initiative’s reach to as many as 500 clergy over the next five years.
Support for MFVI is one component of the Pension Boards’ Generations of Service: Faith and Finance in Action capital campaign, designed to sustain the financial assistance and leadership programs of the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance. To date, this campaign has raised over $10 million of its $20 million goal, including $1 million in matching funds for MFVI.
“This collaboration will provide debt relief while also providing clergy with educational tools to achieve financial wellness,” said Pension Boards President and CEO Brian R. Bodager. “Our working together to address a common challenge represents faithful solidarity at the national level of the United Church of Christ to solve a common challenge for the benefit of pastors and the congregations and settings they serve.”