Secret’s Out: Pastors often face financial challenges


By Analiz G. Schremmer, Contributing Writer

Pastor Brooks Kimmey of First Baptist Church of Robinson said he loves being a pastor so much, he would do it for free. The problem with that, he said, is that places like grocery stores and hospitals make pastors pay for services.

And when a pastor gets sick, there are a lot more services that need to be paid.

Before moving to Robinson, Kimmey was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, a rare autoimmune disease that caused him severe muscle and joint pain and inflammation. Ordinary tasks like getting out of bed or getting dressed can become either slow and painful or nearly impossible without assistance. The stress of the move and the birth of his second child seemed to aggravate the sickness. He suffered a blood clot right before the move, and once at his new home, he had multiple fevers every day.

“The last straw was one night I was on the couch shivering and talking unintelligible gibberish,” he said. “An ambulance came and rushed me to the hospital.”

Kimmey, now 32, testified that God used his illness for His glory and for his family and Kimmey’s good, but it did create serious financial stressors.

“With hospital bills, infusions, various treatments and medications…trying to keep me alive has certainly dwindled our bank account,” he said. “When I saw the Ministerial Excellence Matching Grant, I realized that this could be another evidence of God’s kindness and provision. This gave me the opportunity to share our financial need with others, and allowed God to work through their generosity.”

The Ministerial Excellence Matching Grant is an opportunity offered to ensure that pastors receive the help they need to minister well without worrying about personal debt or finances. The grant allows pastors to apply for up to $5,000. The other $5,000 or less must be matched by the pastor, a donor, the church or some other means. Kimmey learned about the opportunity through social media. “A friend made a video for us in which I shared our situation, and I asked friends and family to help us raise the funds necessary to receive the full amount of the grant we’d received,” Kimmey said. “Not only did we raise the goal that the BGCT would match through the grant, we raised several thousand more. Our church was then able to use that surplus money to help pay for my monthly health insurance premiums. And upon receiving the full amount of the grant, we were able to chip away at the medical bills.”

The Center for Ministerial Excellence began distributing grants in the Spring of 2017. This was after the BGCT was awarded a $1 million implementation grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to participate in its National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

“This grant gave me a vehicle to make our need known, as well as a goal to raise with the motivation of a match”

“There has been a huge response to this,” said director for the Center of Ministerial Excellence Tammy Tijerina. “A lot of our pastors might be dealing with cancer or medical issue and don’t have health insurance or have a high deductible plan and are already living with no margins so it wipes them out.”

Tijerina explained that pastors depend on people’s giving and generosity for their living and a lot of the churches that the Center for Ministerial Excellence sees have experienced a decline in giving. If people don’t give, it’ll impact the church’s ability to provide benefits or support the pastor financially.

“It’s unique, because pastors feel like they can’t say anything,” she said. “They don’t want to seem nonspiritual for asking for more money to support their family.”

Similarly, Kimmey’s church was experiencing some financial challenges at the same time as he was. But the grant provided a way for him to get his needs met.

“This grant gave me a vehicle to make our need known, as well as a goal to raise with the motivation of a match,” Kimmey said. “Our family and friends responded in incredible fashion.”

The grant requires that participants meet with a financial planner and participate in a financial retreat.

Kimmey said that the financial retreat was the most beneficial grant requirement for him. He participated with his church deacon chairman and they both learned lessons on how the church can better care for their pastor.

Retreats educate pastors, their spouses and lay leaders on church budgeting, personal budgeting and tax benefits for pastors.

“A housing allowance is an awesome tax benefit for pastors that many churches are not taking advantage of because they just don’t know about it,” Tijerina explained. “It’s one of the best things a church can do for a minister financially. It allows ministers to exclude some or all of their ministerial income as a housing allowance for federal income tax purposes. But the church has to designate that amount.”

According to research that was made possible by a $50,000 Lilly Endowment planning grant, 36 percent of Texas Baptist pastors do not receive a housing allowance.

Another grant requirement is meeting up with a financial planner, which Tijerina said has made a big impact because many pastors don’t feel at liberty to discuss their finances.

“Our study showed that 34 percent of Texas Baptist pastors have no one to talk to about finances outside of their household,” Tijerina stated.

Michael Westbrooks, a member of First Baptist Richardson who is self-employed at Westbrooks Dugger and Westbrooks Financial in Dallas, volunteers as one of the financial planners who is available to meet with qualifying grant recipients.

“A lot of [ministers] just don’t make enough money,” Westbrook said. “They are trying to raise a family and a lot of them don’t have any margin so they are in trouble when something comes up.”

He said many times he encourages pastors to find a trusted deacon or a senior member of the church and include them in the conversation.

“In some cases, I think that if church leaders knew, they would step up and try to make a salary adjustment,” he said. “I think this is an amazing grant and there is such a great need for it. I hope the BGCT continues to press education and the importance of giving young pastors a knowledge base about having social security and saving early for emergencies and retirement.”

Financial Planning Expert Michael Westbrooks shared financial success tips for pastors:

  1. There are many successful Christian business people. Reach out to them. If it needs to be a non-church member, reach out to another person like me who is in the network of volunteers willing to help educate pastors. Look into financial literacy resources that are available through GuideStone. To request a meeting with a financial planner in the Texas Baptists network, visit texasbaptists.org/cme.
  2. Start saving early for retirement.  If you can save 10 to 15 percent of what you’re making, then by the time you retire you should be able to maintain the same lifestyle you had in your working years. If you can’t do that, do something. Contact GuideStone at 1-888-984-8433 to set-up a retirement account and for more help.
  3. Budget separately for emergencies.
  4. Be educated about your choices in regards to social security and be sure you are fully informed before making decisions.
  5. Educate yourself and your church on the ministerial housing allowance. Go to guidestone.org/housingallowance for more information.
  6. Learn good financial management. Figure out what you should be spending on rent. Look into apps to help you manage your finances.  

Visit texasbaptists.org/cme for more info.

Related articles: The results are in: Grants give ministers hope for financial future / Texas Baptists joins Ramsey Solutions to provide financial training for churches / Levi Price named Outstanding Interim Pastor for 2018