The Reverend Patrick McElwaine, Associate Pastor of Clemmons Presbyterian Church, in North Carolina, was worried about supporting his family. He and his wife, Allyson, have a 3-year-old son who was born prematurely and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Although the McElwaines were managing their challenges with grace, Clemmons’ pastor, the Reverend Dr. William Hoyle, wondered, “How can we help this young pastor and his family?” Then, he heard about Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations, designed to lift financial burdens from pastors so they can bring their best selves to ministry.
Board of Pensions staff told Dr. Hoyle about the program at the 223rd General Assembly (2018). If Rev. McElwaine qualified, the associate pastor could receive a grant of up to $10,000 to help ease his financial worries.
Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations requires that the pastor seeking the grant take an online personal financial education series, attend in-person training with congregational leaders, and receive individual financial counseling from Ernst & Young Employee Financial Services. The financial counselors guide participating pastors in developing personalized financial plans.
“Some people think pastors’ vocations shield them. … But finances can be stressful for pastors, both personally and professionally.”
— Elder Rebecca Boyd
Taking the first step, Dr. Hoyle approached Clemmons’ congregational leaders to ask if they would participate in the in-person training at the heart of the program and commit to making a financial gift, of any amount, to Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations. They agreed.
“Some people think pastors’ vocations shield them,” said Elder Rebecca Boyd, who co-chairs Clemmons’ Personnel Committee. “But finances can be stressful for pastors, both personally and professionally.”
In Rev. McElwaine’s case, the medical and other costs related to premature birth and autism are prohibitive, even with the comprehensive coverage he and his family have through the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“The PC(USA) literally is living its values by providing help for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,” Rev. McElwaine said. “The Board of Pensions Medical Plan is very progressive in covering applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. That’s not a common benefit.”
Still, other significant expenses related to raising a child with autism are not covered, and, understanding the situation, Clemmons’ congregational leadership fully embraced Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations. “They responded with joy and readiness to be involved,” Rev. McElwaine said.
Representatives of Clemmons’ session, Personnel Committee, Finance Committee, and staff attended the in-person training, during which presenters brought participants on a journey from “the practical to the spiritual,” Elder Boyd said. “They helped us see our work as an expression of our faith, not simply as bureaucratic tasks to be done. It’s really a ministry.”
Rev. McElwaine is grateful for “the vision and caring of Board of Pensions leadership” in developing Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations.
“By reducing the financial pressure on me, this program is making a real difference in my life and the life of Clemmons Presbyterian Church,” he said. “I love being a part of this congregation’s enthusiasm for sharing Jesus in our words and actions — in preaching and living our mission — and this helps me do that.”