Pathways to Renewal brings young ministers into the Benefits Plan with the full benefits of Pastor's Participation at substantially reduced dues. It is designed to provide hope of renewed leadership to small congregations and support to innovative ministries.
The story below illustrates the impact this program is having on the health of the Church.
A year ago, the Reverend David Schaefers, solo pastor of the 475-member First Presbyterian Church of Richardson (FPCR), Texas, was “limping along” with the help of part-time parish associates.
Rev. Schaefers had conducted 60 funerals in six years, and was seeing the need for more pastoral care than he alone could provide. At the same time, he was cultivating FPCR’s children’s education ministry, which had gone from 10 to about 70 children and was still growing. For years, he and FPCR’s session knew they needed the support of a full-time associate, but they weren’t sure they could afford one. It had been nearly 20 years since the congregation had had an associate pastor on staff.
When Rev. Schaefers attended a Board of Pensions workshop, he heard about Pathways to Renewal and realized that his church met the eligibility criteria. The program provides a dues reduction, from 37 percent of effective salary to 19.75 percent, for five years. “I just about fell out of my chair,” he said. “It meant we likely could call an associate pastor, which was super-exciting.”
Richardson is just outside of Dallas, and housing is expensive, out of reach for most young ministers. A dues reduction through Pathways to Renewal would make it possible for FPCR to pay a new associate pastor a higher starting salary, making the call more attractive.
The congregation wasted no time. It called the Reverend Rosy Robson right out of seminary. Rev. Robson, who splits her time across FPCR’s Christian education, worship, and mission ministries, credits the dues reduction of Pathways to Renewal with enabling her to accept the call. “Without it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to live in the Richardson community, and I would have struggled to make ends meet,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have the Board of Pensions, and especially FPCR, invest in me this way.”
Rev. Robson is a good match for the challenges of FPCR, having served as a founding leadership team member for The Joyful Feast, a new worshiping community in Richmond, Virginia. She has begun working toward a certificate in community organizing and congregational leadership, through NEXT Church, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation.
The neighborhood surrounding the church, which identifies itself as the most historic church in Richardson, with roots dating back to 1870, is culturally diverse. FPCR is host to four distinct nesting congregations — Taiwanese, Pakistani, Columbian, and Kenyan. Each of these “broadly Presbyterian” congregations conducts services in its native language.
As for its own congregation, it is “growing younger and younger all the time,” Rev. Schaefers said. More young families are moving to the area. To accommodate that change and attract new members, the congregation renovated their Christian education building and increased the annual advertising budget.
FPCR has begun investing in these young newcomers as leaders. “We have a new class of elders, and one is in their 20s, as well as a thriving new young adult ministry and Christian education ministry,” Rev. Robson said.
Rev. Robson is excited about how the congregation is greeting change, and grateful that Pathways to Renewal has helped make her a part of it. “Pathways is giving FPCR the freedom to take really good care of me so I can take really good care of them,” she said.
“We are preparing Rosy for a lifelong career in ministry, with the expectation that she’ll be a head of staff somewhere someday,” Rev. Schaefers said.
Pathways to Renewal gave Grace Presbyterian Church of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, the opportunity to delve more deeply into youth ministry.