CARE: A CONSTANT FOR PASTORS IN UNCERTAIN, CHANGING TIMES
Long before COVID-19, studies had shown one of the greatest challenges pastors face is their finances. When CARE—Clergy Advocacy and Resource Effort—came on the Church of God scene in 2016, the splash was big and the work was broad. Conventions, camp meetings, and large events featured CARE seminars and opportunities for pastors and lay leaders to be introduced to the project and leave with valuable resources in hand. As a result of numerous emphases over the first few years of CARE, the Church of God rejoices today in 309 pastoral assistance grants awarded for a total of $798,291 toward student loan relief and retirement account deposits. Over the past couple of years, much of the work has shifted out of the public eye, but do not be mistaken—the laser-focused thrust of CARE today, a constant in the midst of uncertain and changing times, is having a remarkable impact on pastors of the Church of God.
For participating pastors and boards, CARE requires a three-year commitment. Participants benefit from financial coaching one-on-one on a regular basis. Instead of general principles conveyed from a teacher to an audience reflecting varying needs, CARE has discovered the life-changing results that correspond with an individualized approach. Now that church boards are coming on board—60 already in 2020—the opportunity to totally transform the way pastors are cared for within the local church is within the Movement’s grasp. No wonder the coaches and administrators of CARE are so excited; the following participant feedback reflects the practical and incredible effect they see firsthand throughout the year.
“We were thinking about bankruptcy. The [CARE] process worked. We now have hope.”
“Thank you so much. I can’t tell you enough how the CARE program has been such a blessing to us. Since we’ve been in the program, we’ve paid off all credit cards, two cars, and now working to pay off our student loans. We look forward to being debt-free.”
“CARE is essential. It helps us pastors to stay in the ministry.”
Wow. And, this year, the project is positioned to coach 155 pastors in addition to those 60 church boards, releasing a collective possible total of $301,500 in grants. Thankfully, the work is seeing some success in reaching a broad swath of the Church of God, as well, considering the 30 percent African American and 9 percent Hispanic participation. Among pastors, an encouraging 27 percent of participants are women in ministry.
For a large segment of pastors, financial uncertainty is a constant stressor for their families and ministries. A recent survey revealed personal financial stress can, at times, make nearly 50 percent of Church of God pastors feel like giving up. The same survey indicated pastors at highest risk were early-career pastors. The stress level for these pastors has only increased during the past months of COVID-19 challenges. That’s where CARE project of Church of God Ministries comes alongside pastors and church boards in helping the Movement address the economic challenges facing these pastors. CARE has responded by offering qualifying Church of God pastors free finance and compensation coaching with pastors individually, and with congregational boards and finance committees.
The 2021 CARE Cohort of new pastors and congregations is currently forming. For additional information, statistics and stories, as well as the application process, go to www.jesusisthesubject.org/CARE.
And, be sure to watch the CARE testimony of Pastor Ramon Rivera of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Glendale, Arizona: