At any given moment, there are people in a church congregation who are in the grip of a financial crisis. One of those people could be the pastor.
In a 2015 study by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), more than four thousand pastors were surveyed about their financial health. This study reveals the depth of a situation that reaches across boundaries of theology, governance, and polity. Among the findings:
- 30 percent of pastors have student loan debt averaging $36,000;
- 3 out of 4 carry some type of nonmortgage debt (student, medical, or other debt) averaging $31,593;
- 33 percent have less than $10,000 in retirement funds, and 29 percent have no retirement savings;
- 84 percent do not have funds to cover emergencies and major purchases; and
- 31 percent work second jobs.
The NAE survey was made possible through a nationwide, multiyear initiative by the Lilly Endowment to strengthen the finances of pastors. Numerous organizations have received grants from the endowment to create awareness about this issue and to educate denominations, churches, and pastors about how to respond. Leith Anderson, NAE president, said his organization's three-year project involves three denominations and is already looking to expand.