“Faith +Finances + Freedom” is inspired by the Lilly Endowment 2016 National Initiative Addressing Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. We conducted four different surveys within the NC Synod with 593 responses from rostered leaders and their spouses, congregation financial secretaries/treasurers and our retirement services provider, Portico. Our research revealed high debt loads, low savings, and poor financial literacy, complicated by the decreased capacity of some congregations to provide adequate compensation for rostered leaders. Near-term relief, long-term solutions, sound financial literacy, and stewardship programs are necessary components of an effective plan to address economic challenges of leaders in North Carolina. Reflecting who we are, we have developed a three-year plan that complements current synod ministries as well as new, emerging ministries. The plan is intended to continue after the first three years. “Faith + Finances + Freedom” is designed to reach the majority of the 199 congregations in the NC Synod. The program will provide grants to rostered ministers, financial literacy and stewardship education programs for rostered ministers and congregations, annual workshops for financial chairpersons and treasurers, and teaching videos for congregational finance leaders. Each part of our plan is focused on deepening relationships, building trust and creating long-term solutions.

We have named our Ministerial Excellence Fund “The Lifeline Fund.” We will award grants for medical needs, credit card and education debt relief, retirement saving incentives, emergency needs, and compensation support for partnering congregations. Our education programs will include personal financial literacy planners and consultants for rostered leaders, Financial Peace University, Good $ense, annual synod-wide workshops on congregation finances/budgets, First Call Theological Education and Candidacy presentations, Stewardship Education (Stewardship for All Seasons), a series of videos for treasurers/financial leaders in congregations, and additional financial/stewardship resources added to our NC Synod library, the Heilig Resource Center. We will also partner with the ELCA on their Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant, “Resourceful Servants,” to provide financial literacy materials and workshop presentations. Our plan produces three ways to win in the North Carolina Synod: Healthy Leaders, Vital Congregations, and Thriving Communities.