Like any other sector, churches and religious nonprofits benefit from caring well for their employees. Ministers accept a call to local church ministry knowing it is not a lucrative vocation. Many churches and clergy accept that the pastoral role will usually be underpaid, whether because the congregations are under-resourced, ministers do not ask for increased compensation over the years, or because other priorities overtake pastoral compensation in budgeting. The Thrive Financial Initiative (TFI) offers pastors and churches the opportunity to work together toward the pastor’s financial health. TFI achieves this through a collaborative effort between laity and clergy, and offers pastors the opportunity to receive funds from the denomination as a “match” to their local church’s investment in their well-being.
But for Luella Belliveau—a member of Woods Harbour Wesleyan Church of Woods Harbour, Novia Scotia, a living wage for pastors is a reflection of a congregation’s heart for a thriving community. Appropriate pastoral compensation reduces additional financial pressure often present in pastoral life, and helps the church thrive under leaders who can be more fully present to their work, and less anxious about meeting their financial obligations. “We’re a church who believes in fully supporting our pastor, so when I realized the benefit he could achieve through Thrive, I was on board in helping him achieve that in his own personal life,” reflected Belliveau.
Participants in TFI work alongside a “Thrive Team,” a group of laity who meet with the pastor to analyze weaknesses, identify opportunities, and help the pastor move forward on their pathway to financial health. For some pastors, this might include debt-reduction, increased compensation, or another commitment from the church to invest in the pastors’ development through an education fund, a housing allowance, or some other measurable goal. For Woods Harbour Wesleyan Church’s pastor, Rev. Jason Parker, the goal was to become debt-free, and his Thrive Team helped him achieve that goal.
But one of the real surprises from the TFI process was how well the education framework and reflection questions translated to their congregants’ ability to care for their own finances. “I didn’t know how much an impact it would have on the church as well,” she mentioned. After undertaking his own financial management journey with a Thrive Team, Rev. Parker was able to translate Ron Blue’s financial principles into a three-part sermon series called “Money Matters,” helping their community learn more about God’s heart for stewardship and financial wisdom.
The lasting impact of TFI—both for Belliveau and Woods Harbour—was a solidification of the commitment between laity and clergy to each others’ well-being. “There’s always a benefit in being part of a team,” said Belliveau. “You learn together in material and resources what you’re using, you learn in personal and life experiences. It helps you see where you are in your own area and how you need to grow from there. In this case, TFI was a huge benefit for the team members, the church, the pastor.”
For more information on how laity and clergy can partner together for financial well-being, check Wesleyan.org/TFI.