In 2017, Texas Baptists was awarded a $1 million-dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment to develop financial literacy programs and a fund to help pastors struggling financially. To date, Texas Baptists Center for Financial Health has been able to provide direct aid and financial literacy education to over 100 pastors. One pastor that has received help is Micah Roddy, the student pastor at First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi. He and his wife lived their entire lives on a budget and had no credit card debt, but they had student loans that ate up most of their monthly funds.
Pastor Roddy and his wife are not alone. According to a 2018 Pastor Finances Study conducted by Grey Matter Research, 48% of Texas Baptist pastors under 45 years old have student loan debt, and the average amount of student loan debt owed by Texas Baptists pastors is a whopping $44,241. Texas Baptists pastors with a graduate degree have an average debt-to-church-compensation ratio of 57%, making it hard for pastors to build emergency savings and retirement savings, as well as maintain a moderate standard of living.
In a recent article in The Christian Century titled, “What pastors get paid and when it’s not enough,” the authors point out that “Education debt is usually seen as an investment that will pay off in higher income, but for clergy larger salaries are not necessarily forthcoming. In order to justify such debt, a borrower would need a starting salary of more than $65,000 to meet monthly payoff guidelines—a figure that is well above the average salary for all clergy.”
Many pastors are like Pastor Roddy, who, due to large student loans, have begun to question their calling as they lack the resources to support their families financially. Pastors can receive a matching grant up to $2,500 to help pay down debt and build an emergency fund. If the pastor or pastor’s church can raise up to $2,500, the Convention will match the $2,500 raised. As part of the grant process, pastors are required to meet with a financial counselor. For Pastor Roddy, his counselor has become “a friend and mentor and prayer partner.” His counselor is also a CPA and helped his family get back a huge reimbursement on his taxes, his first ever as a pastor.
As a denomination, foundation and collective group that serves the church and its mission, Texas Baptists has an important task to talk more about student loans and seek solutions together. Pastor Roddy and his family are back on track to becoming completely debt-free, allowing them to build up their emergency fund and continue to preach the Good News.
Before Pastor Appreciation Month ends, pray about how you can provide generously for your pastor and your pastor’s family. Click here to learn more about Texas Baptists’ Center for Financial Health.