Project leaders and representatives from grant recipients of Lilly Endowment’s Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leader’s (ECFPL) initiative gathered from Nov. 27 through Nov. 29. While there, attendees addressed financial issues clergy often encounter and networked to work toward important solutions.

With about 50 grant recipients and their teams of five to six members, almost 300 people representing over 60 denominations across the United States attended the conference held in Indianapolis.

The event, spearheaded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. Religion Division, included worship, speakers and breakout sessions. Besides creating a time of learning for attendees, groups were able to share from their own experiences of what works and what doesn’t when addressing economic challenges for clergy.

Among those attending were ECD’s own Executive Director Russ Gunsalus and Executive Assistant Charmaine Patterson, along with Thrive Financial Initiative (TFI) Director Dr. Mark Rennaker, and Deb Beck, partner with Thrivent Financial. Both organizations have partnered with ECD to break through barriers facing pastors financially.

Pension Fund Church recognized TFI Director, Dr. Rennaker, and shared that his material (captured by ECFS) is often used as a part of a financial education course the organization hosts. The course is accessible to Wesleyan pastors, as well as participants in the Thrive Financial Initiative.

“Economic challenges among clergy are a persistent and common concern across all denominations in the United States. The general consensus is economic challenges keep some out of the ministry, keep many from being able to function fully in ministry, and cause many to leave the ministry,” Dr. Rennaker shared.

“Coming together helps everyone feel part of something larger, reminds us the problems are widespread, and helps us grow in our collective understanding of issues and solutions.”

Other speakers at the event included Chris Coble (VP Religion Division, Lily Endowment, Inc.), Elise Erikson Barrett (Coordination Program Manager, National Initiative to Address ECFPL), Jo Ann Deasy (Director Institutional Initiatives and Student Research, Association of Theological Schools), John Wimmer (Program Director, Lily Endowment, Inc.), Leith Anderson (President, National Association of Evangelicals), and Rick Foss (Coordination Program Director, National Initiative to Address ECFPL).

The Wesleyan Church partnered with Lilly Endowment in 2007 when they were enlisted to research economic challenges clergy face and develop a program to address them. The Thrive Financial Initiative emerged from the research and is now available to any Wesleyan leader. To learn more about how to become a part of the solution, visit