The Florida United Methodist Foundation and the Florida Conference Office of Clergy Excellence will offer the initial component of a new financial stewardship training program for young clergy March 3-5 at First UMC, Lakeland.
The Young Clergy Stewardship Academy is funded by a grant from The United Methodist Church’s Young Clergy Initiative Fund, established by the 2012 General Conference. It is open to active clergy, local pastors and anyone in the candidacy process who is 39 years of age or younger. The registration deadline is Feb. 1.
The 2 1/2-day event will cover personal and financial stewardship with an emphasis on developing a theology of stewardship and training pastors to become financial leaders of their churches. Courses will also cover student debt, housing, clergy tax laws and pension benefits available through The United Methodist Church. Clergy are encouraged to bring their spouses, and child care for preschool-aged children will be available with advance notice.
The Young Clergy Initiative grant will provide scholarships to cover the costs of registration and materials, three meals, lodging and on-site child care for up to 80 attendees. Participants will also be eligible for two continuing education credits from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. If all spots are not filled, the opportunity may be open to older candidates, said Dr. Wayne Wiatt, director of Clergy Excellence for the Florida Conference. But the workshop is intended to fulfill the intent of the Young Clergy Initiative, which is to help promising young clergy enter ministry with little to no debt from educational loans.
The program has been reformulated since it was initially announced.
“Right now, this is phase one, and we hope to put together a phase two,” which will probably be designed to catch up with the first-phase attendees after they have been in ministry for three to five years, Wiatt said.
Conference leaders also are working on plans to generate more scholarships for seminary students from the Florida Conference. Wiatt expects delegates will hear more about that in June during Annual Conference 2015.
Currently, the Office of Clergy Excellence offers scholarships of up to $14,250 for every Florida Conference certified candidate enrolled in seminary. The program is funded by apportionments. The new program would generate funds to help seminary students in addition to those scholarships.
For the upcoming academy, the following nationally recognized stewardship consultants will serve as instructors:
• Dr. Clif Christopher, a member of the Arkansas Conference and founder and president of Horizons Stewardship in Cabot, Ark. He is a prolific preacher and teacher and author of five books on stewardship, including “Not Your Parents Offering Plate,” “Rich Church – Poor Church” and the newly released “Church Money Manual.” His company has served more than 1,200 churches and raised more than $1.7 billion.
• Mark Conner, benefits educator for the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church. Conner works with conferences across the denomination to help United Methodist clergy maximize their Personal Investment Portfolio (PIP) and other pension and health benefits available to them.
• Dr. Michael Reeves, former president of the Louisiana United Methodist Foundation and former vice president for stewardship services at the Texas Methodist Foundation. Reeves has taught at Southern Methodist University, served as a stewardship consultant and written three books on stewardship: “Extraordinary Money,” “Creative Giving” and “Faith and Money.”
• Tom Wilkinson, vice president of development for the Florida United Methodist Foundation. Wilkinson consults with Florida Conference churches on planned giving, investing and comprehensive Christian stewardship. Before joining the foundation, he was director of planned giving for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. He also worked with the Union Bank of Switzerland and other predecessor financial institutions in Chicago, New York and Europe.
The foundation and Office of Clergy Excellence collaborated on the successful Young Clergy Initiative grant proposal and course outlines for more than a year. The curriculum is designed to pair a Wesleyan understanding of Christian stewardship with practical financial tools and resources. The objective is to coach clergy and help them develop financial building blocks necessary for good stewardship, both personally and professionally as congregational leaders.
More young clergy leave the church and candidacy process due to financial issues and concerns than for any other reason, according to church data. The Young Clergy Initiative Fund was established to help United Methodist conferences assist young clergy and clergy candidates in discerning the realities of a career in ministry. The Florida Conference was notified last spring that it had received the grant.
Click here to register online for the Young Clergy Stewardship Academy.The academy’s sessions are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. All sessions will be held at First UMC, Lakeland.
More information is available by contacting Nadara Brock toll-free at 866-363-9673, ext. 7113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Susan Green, managing editor of Florida Conference Connection, contributed to this report.