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National Association of Evangelicals to explore what it's like to live on a pastor's salary
Faith leaders who enter ministry with student-loan debt and weak financial literacy can quickly rack up monetary mistakes. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local evangelical Christian churches, wants to help faith leaders make wise financial choices.

Over the next few years, the organization will use a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to increase awareness among pastors and their families of the resources available to leaders who live on a tight budget.

"We have had the desire to address this issue for a long time, and are pleased to partner with the Lilly Endowment on a topic that will directly impact the ministry of thousands of pastors across the United States," said Leith Anderson, NAE president, in a press release.

The NAE is one of 28 organizations to receive financial support from the Endowment, which has committed $28 million to addressing how economic challenges like education debt and weak financial literacy affect ministry, according to a news release from Lilly Endowment.

"These organizations understand that these kinds of financial challenges can impair the ability of pastors to lead their congregations effectively. They recognize the importance of the financial well-being of pastors and the implications for the congregations they serve," said Christopher Coble, the Endowment's vice president for religion.

Goals of the program include encouraging more clergy members to take part in financial literacy training, designing pension savings programs, developing denominational strategies to address student debt taken on during seminary training and creating scholarships for future pastors, the Endowment's release notes.

Supports hope research and activism around financial issues will enable more pastors to commit to full-time ministry, even as declining church membership affects the ability of faith communities to pay pastors well.

Currently, many faith leaders are forced to take secondary jobs to support their families, a situation that likely turns potential pastors away from the career path, as Beau Underwood, a bi-vocational pastor, noted in Sojourners in July 2014.

"As more and more seminary graduates are unable to find full-time, paying jobs, ministry as a profession will become increasingly unattractive to the most talented, passionate and dedicated leaders within the church," he wrote.

The new initiative benefiting organizations like NAE is one of many from the Lilly Endowment focused on pastors' pocketbooks. "In 2012, the endowment made grants to 67 seminaries across the country to help the schools reduce educational debate and promote financial literacy among students," the organization's news release noted.

"It is our hope that (our work) will generate a larger national movement among church-related organizations to address the significant economic barriers that discourage young people from pursuing calls to pastoral leadership," Coble said.
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