Lilly Gathering Affirms CARE Initiative’s Heart for Pastors

 In All Church of God, Great Lakes

Photo: CARE Team at the Lilly Gathering, including Cheryl Elff, Rachel and Ryan Harter, Joseph Cookston, Julia Feirtag, Jessica and Jeremy Zerkle.

By Joseph Cookston

“We were inspired; giving our pastors financial freedom positively affects individual communities and the society at-large; we were validated and motivated…” so reports Julia Feirtag, member of the CARE Initiative Steering Team, as a result of her participation in the Lilly Gathering, November 3 and 4 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This Lilly Gathering brought to Indianapolis representatives from twenty-nine national Christian church groups, including the Church of God, a recipient of one such Lilly Endowment grant in 2015. Last year, these twenty-eight other judicatories also received grants to address the economic challenges facing pastoral leaders among their constituent membership.

During the two-day gathering, director John Wimmer presented research findings that elevated, what he termed as, the widespread conspiracy of silence regarding the serious consequences of extended financial strain upon a sizeable segment of the nation’s pastors. He presented three salient questions:

• What are the economic challenges facing pastoral leaders?
• Whose challenges are these?
• What are the most effective strategies?

Roundtable discussions, clarifying processes, ecumenical worship, and inter-denominational networking gave us depth of information, inspiration, and instruction for strengthening the trajectory of our own initiative, CARE (Clergy Advocacy and Resource Effort). Findings were shared, as well as product development strategy among the different groups, all with a heart of gratitude and concern for their pastors. The focus centered on promoting ways to support the well-being and health of pastoral leaders across the nation by identifying the causes and impact of pastoral financial strain upon individuals and congregations.

The issue is urgent, widespread, infective, and worthy of significant investment. We have this opportunity to act—to act on behalf of sustaining pastoral excellence in the Church of God. This is the moment! One program director ended his presentation comments with, “We have great pastors; we want to keep it that way.” Indeed, the Church of God has great pastors—and we want to keep it that way.

Check out the benefits of the CARE Initiative at


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