Wespath Announces Financial Literacy Phase II Award, Hosts Kick-Off Meeting
February 13, 2019
For Immediate Release
Contact: Lisa L. Drew
Managing Director, Communications, Wespath
Glenview, IL—Wespath Benefits and Investments (Wespath) has been awarded a $1,000,000 grant, part of Lilly Endowment’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. This grant, along with matching funds from United Methodist sources, continues and expands the work begun in 2015 to improve financial acumen of United Methodist clergy and in turn, strengthen the churches they serve. The initiative is a collaborative effort with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the National Association of United Methodist Foundations (NAUMF). Wespath hosted a kick-off meeting of Initiative leaders from the three organizations at their offices today.
Evaluation and ongoing research affirms the importance and impact of this initiative, as well as the challenges, in improving financial skills and sufficiency of pastors. Research conducted in preparation for the initiative concluded that clergy more effectively lead their congregations when they have basic financial understanding and are free from major personal financial burdens. Feedback from participants in financial education projects also indicates clergy need support in retirement planning and in avoiding debt.
“Clergy—particularly those in the early phases of their ministry journey—often carry heavy seminary debt that impedes their ability to give fully of themselves to the church,” says Barbara Boigegrain, Wespath general secretary and CEO. “Some clergy are challenged to manage church budgets and cultivate a culture of congregational giving that is vital for supporting ministry work. With the Lilly Endowment grant, this initiative helps strengthen financial well-being at both the personal and congregational levels.”
A recent Lilly Endowment summit—Gathering First Fruits—addressed this need to strengthen financial well-being for clergy. Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, Chris Coble, and religion program director John Wimmer stated their objective of cultivating a movement that “…will create and foster church-wide cultures where pastoral economic sufficiency will be realized through the abundance of God’s own unfailing generosity.”
In conjunction with this grant, there are opportunities for foundations, annual conferences, boards of ordained ministry, and local churches to partner with Wespath to improve clergy financial leadership, with the ultimate aim of strengthening local churches in their mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ and transforming their communities and the world.
Priorities for the grant include:
Expanding funding partners for the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship,
Creating debt refinancing opportunities,
Promoting financial literacy as an element of Residence in Ministry programs, and
Identifying individual and congregational financial literacy resources appropriate for our United Methodist values and culture.
For more information on partnership opportunities please contact:
Photo Caption: Wespath hosted a kick-off meeting of Initiative leaders, including (left to right): Meg Lassiat (GBHEM) Greg Bergquist (GBHEM), Michelle Smart (Wespath), Cynthia Dopke (Wespath), Martin Bauer (Wespath), Barbara Boigegrain (Wespath), Bonnie Marden (Project Coordinator), Dale Jones (Wespath), David Bell (NAUMF) and Sheri Meister (NAUMF).
About Wespath Benefits and Investments
Wespath Benefits and Investments (WBI) is a not-for-profit agency that has been serving The United Methodist Church (UMC) for over a century. In accordance with its fiduciary duties, WBI administers benefit plans and, together with its subsidiaries, including Wespath Institutional Investments, invests over $21 billion in assets on behalf of over 100,000 participants and over 130 United Methodist-affiliated institutions (as of December 31, 2018). WBI invests in a sustainable manner that seeks to achieve positive financial, social and environmental impact while upholding the values of the UMC. WBI maintains the largest reporting faith-based pension fund in the world. For additional information about Wespath Benefits and Investments, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.