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Clergy Financial Well-Being Initiative

Saving Grace Introductory Event Coming in July

Feedback from pastors who have led members of their congregation through Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Wespath and Abingdon Press will look to build on that early momentum with a pair of informational events designed to familiarize clergy and local church leaders with Saving Grace, a biblically-based, Wesleyan tool that can help participants reach financial well-being goals. We hope to inspire participants to host Saving Grace in their congregations and use it as an outreach ministry.

Each session provides an overview of the curriculum and features presentations from the content experts featured in the Saving Grace videos. Clergy who successfully led groups through Saving Grace will also share their insights.

The first virtual event is Tuesday, July 20 from noon to 4:00 p.m., Central time. The event will be offered again on Monday, July 26 from noon to 4:00 p.m., Central time. To register for the day that is best for you, visit

Hear how the Florida United Methodist Foundation’s ‘Fresh Start’ program helped a clergyperson overcome a heavy consumer debt burden. Read the story here.

Iowa Foundation Combines Powerful Financial Well-Being Tools

When confronted with clergy who were burdened by debt, the Iowa United Methodist Foundation (Foundation) decided to help, help and then help some more.

The Foundation administers the Higher Education Loan Partners (H.E.L.P.) program, which has allowed approximately 20 pastors to refinance roughly $500,000 in student loan debt. Through the H.E.L.P. program, loans with interest rates between 6% and 9% are refinanced at 1.15%. Pastors have collectively saved at least $90,000 in interest payments, according to the Reverend Dr. Katharine Yarnell, Executive Director of the Foundation.

The H.E.L.P. program, made possible by a generous donor, has had far-reaching and unexpected effects.

“We had not anticipated that marriages would be stronger because pastors were not as stressed out, and their family life improved,” Yarnell said.

Barring extenuating circumstances, H.E.L.P. program applicants are required to live and serve in Iowa. Yarnell said that the program has enticed clergy to stay in—or, after seminary, return to—Iowa. Yarnell added that the program has reduced the shame some pastors felt about their finances. 

“In our culture, if you’re poor, there is an element of, ‘Well, what’s wrong with you?’ and, ‘God doesn’t love you as much and hasn’t blessed you as much because you don’t have as many zeroes behind your numbers in your bank account,’” Yarnell said. “And I think the other thing is, definitely when you do have your finances in order it does impact—and strengthen—your relationship with God because you have more control. Even if the news is bad, you have hope and a plan for getting out of it.”

As part of the H.E.L.P. program, pastors are required to complete a financial class, and this year they had the opportunity to participate in one with a Wesleyan perspective—Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being. Yarnell led the personal money management program virtually via Zoom.

The Foundation rewarded the eight pastors in the H.E.L.P. program who completed Saving Grace’s nine-session curriculum by reducing the principal of their loans by $200 each. In addition to the monetary incentive, pastors who completed Saving Grace earned one CEU.

“The Saving Grace curriculum is fantastic,” said Yarnell, adding, “It does require you to do some work and some self-examination.”

Participants who went through Saving Grace, which was developed by Wespath and Abingdon Press, felt it was a good use of their time.

“I feel more confident and less ignorant, and therefore, less intimidated when it comes to addressing our (family’s) finances,” one participant shared with Yarnell.

Another participant said: “The Christian aspect of this is great.”

Yarnell also said she learned from the curriculum. The Reverend Jodi Smith, one of the Saving Grace content experts, delivered a message that resonated with Yarnell.

“Here she is, this super accountant, finance whiz, and she said, ‘Yeah, we were really in trouble with debt,’” Yarnell said. “That was just in some ways reassuring because you might think, ‘Well, I’m not doing well financially because I’m not a financial whiz. And if I just had an accounting and finance degree, I would be fine.’ And it’s like, ‘No.’ We live in a really consumer culture. It’s really easy to get in trouble. We all make financial mistakes.”

If you are interested in creating your own loan refinancing program, please contact Ross Lundstrom at to learn about how the Initiative can support your efforts and the possibility of matching funds to help start your program.

UM Seminaries Share Their Approaches to Financial Education

On April 28, the Initiative hosted a webinar featuring panelists from three United Methodist seminaries to share how their schools are providing clergy with financial education in preparation for ministry. Dr. Lovett Weems and Dr. Ann Michel from Wesley Theological Seminary; Rev. Katye Chambers from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; and Rev. Dr. Thad Austin of Duke Divinity School were the panelists. What follows are a few of the highlights:

  • Wesley offers a total of four credit hours in its regular curriculum that cover: personal finances for the religious professional (two credits), church finances (one credit) and stewardship (one credit).
  • Garrett has developed an online series on congregational financial management and an in-person change management seminar.
  • Duke offers a new course called Theology of Money from a Wesleyan Perspective in its Advanced Course of Study program for licensed local pastors, which is a growing percentage of clergy serving congregations in the UMC.

Panelists and participants discussed creative ways that seminaries can continue to assist future clergy with financial literacy needs. To watch a recording of the hour-long seminar, visit: The PowerPoint slides from the event are available here.

Mountain Sky Conference Offers Personal Financial Well-Being Session

We celebrate the increasing number of conferences integrating financial literacy into their educational activities for provisional members (Residency in Ministry or Provisional Leaders Academy). This investment in personal financial well-being impacts their personal lives and professional ministry.

The Mountain Sky Conference launched a Financial Resiliency year with a personal financial well-being session led by conference leadership, an EY educator and stewardship practitioners. 

Participants looked at their personal saving and spending habits, the advantages of early retirement savings and the complexity of clergy taxes.

"Clergy young in ministry face so many challenges; their own personal financial health should not be one of them,” said the Reverend Emily Flemming, RIM Team Member. “Clergy must understand the financial positions of their congregations or organizations. We are investing in their ability to cultivate generosity and resiliency. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need more flexibility and financial tools in our clergy toolkits to help our communities recover and thrive."

For more information about funding and resources for similar sessions, contact Bonnie Marden at

The Initiative Launches New-Look Website

We invite you to explore the Initiative’s recently redesigned webpage—which has easy-to-digest information thanks to new visuals—and to bookmark it as well. The updated design is the foundation for a revitalized web presence that provides up-to-date information and resources on clergy financial well-being. The webpage includes information about the Initiative’s top priorities as well as current and back issues of this newsletter. We encourage you to check back in the coming months for video interviews with subject matter experts and a library of video webinars.   

UMC Clergy Financial Well-Being Initiative

For more information about this initiative and clergy financial well-being resources, visit:

Successfully expanding financial literacy depends on strategic collaboration.
We look forward to working with you in 2021.

Connected in Christian Service,

Dale Jones, Wespath Project Director
David Bell, Project Chair

Bonnie Marden, Project Manager
Lisa Greenwood, NAUMF Executive Director

A collaborative project led by Wespath Benefits and Investments, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Discipleship Ministries and National Association of United Methodist Foundations funded by a Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant through their Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

Copyright © 2021 Wespath Benefits and Investments, a general agency of The United Methodist Church.

Wespath is located at 1901 Chestnut Ave., Glenview, IL 60025.

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