hroughout my years in ministry, I have often wondered if any other profession requires as broad a range of knowledge and expertise as that of the local church pastor. At times it seems we should suggest to our young ministerial students that pursuing a degree in five or six subjects might be what they will need.
We could probably all come up with a list that includes business administration, finance, psychology, sociology, education, communication, and marketing, along with theology, philosophy, biblical studies, church history, and more.
However, the financial load of student debt for so many of our young ministers is already overwhelming. One approach to solving this problem is to focus on our strengths or on what we like to do, and then bring others around us who have the expertise to take care of everything else. This approach is admirable because no one can do and be everything. However, the pastor still needs to have adequate oversight of these areas.
A K e y E d u c a t i o n a l N e e d f o r P a s t o r s
Two years ago, Dale Jones, Director of Research Services for the Church of the Nazarene, conducted a survey of pastors and associate pastors in the United States on behalf of the COMPASS Initiative. Among the issues addressed in the survey were questions about the continuing education needs for the pastor and local church regarding financial challenges. The survey asked pastors if they believed they would take advantage of learning opportunities and resources available in the following areas: understanding tax implications, cultivating good giving practices, generating a spirit of generosity, conducting an audit, discussing compensation with the board, communicating to the church, evaluating staff compensation, developing an annual church budget, monthly financial reporting, and managing personal finances.
For all but one of the survey topics, 70 percent to 88 percent of pastors stated that they needed “some” or “a lot” of help in these areas. The survey revealed that our ministers desire opportunities to learn best practices in the area of financial literacy and financial management. About 58 percent of pastors signaled a desire for more resources in personal financial management.
Based upon the results of related data collected, the percentage could have been even higher. In the work of the COMPASS Initiative, we are discovering that many of our ministers face significant financial challenges but either do not realize it or just do not want to admit it. We sincerely hope that those ministers will realize that they are not alone. The COMPASS Initiative, which is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, is a program offered to our ministers and local churches to address the top seven financial challenges Nazarene ministers face. The financial literacy/learning portion of the COMPASS Initiative is the COMPASS Academy and is available to all of our ministers and local church lay leaders.
The COMPASS Academy is a financial “toolbox” with resources under the basic categories of personal budgeting and debt management, retirement readiness, training for biblical stewardship, communicating finances as a leader, and local church finances. These educational resources are located at www.compassinitiative.org.
The COMPASS Journey program is a financial literacy, management, and well-being resource for USA Church of the Nazarene pastors and full-time associate pastors, with a potential matching grant of up to $5,000 for debt relief and/or retirement readiness. We now are offering a new resource program, the COMPASS Quest.
This program includes a six-month online training opportunity in personal finances and one in church generosity. There is a potential matching grant of up to $1,000 for ministers who complete the personal finances program.
We live in a time with amazing resources and educational opportunities. To be called to ministry is to be called as a lifelong learner. The Church of the Nazarene is committed to the continuing educational needs of our ministers, and to offering amazing resources.