I am about to do a new thing …
— Isaiah 43:19
Christ is risen! The Easter season is here, and we’re celebrating life made new — life that conquers death and renews hope. Gone is despair over what’s been lost. We have hit the refresh button on how we look at things.
It’s not news that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is changing, and we see opportunity for renewal springing forth. In the new Matthew 25 Initiative, the Church calls on us “to actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities.”
Strong ministerial leadership is needed to embolden us for this renewed witness and service. Now is the time for the Church to look, with new eyes, at supporting congregational ministry. The Board of Pensions has developed new programs to help congregations and presbyteries support our faith leaders.
We’ve seen small churches and emerging ministries that are financially unable to call a pastor. Other churches have solo pastors working diligently to meet pastoral care needs but lack the financial resources to call an associate pastor. So, we developed Pathways to Renewal, which brings young ministers into the Benefits Plan with full benefits at substantially reduced dues.
The Reverend David Schaefers, who leads a 475-member congregation, says he “just about fell out of my chair” when he heard about Pathways. Today, his church has its first associate pastor in nearly 20 years.
Recognizing other unmet needs, and knowing that Pathways is not a solution for all, the Board has designed a program to support evangelism and the organization of new churches. This new program will help 30 presbyteries pay the dues to cover full benefits for organizing pastors and evangelists while they establish new congregations.
Ministers also have financial concerns that interfere with successful ministry, so we’ve made Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations available nationally after a successful pilot in North Carolina. This financial education program combines pastor and congregational education with financial stability grants of up to $10,000 to pastors. It’s getting great reviews because both pastors and congregational leaders see that it addresses pastors’ financial challenges so they can grow and sustain their ministries.
We also expanded our Assistance Program grant that helps ministers eliminate up to $25,000 in educational debt.
So, here at the Board of Pensions, we’re seeing the world with resurrection eyes.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer