The Ministerial Excellence Initiative (MEI) is designed to help pastoral and congregational leaders identify and respond to financial stressors causing anxiety. Our goal is to stimulate a sense of confidence, and increase knowledge in the lives of our pastoral leaders and congregations. The MEI initiative:
Our research has shown, from both previous recipients and a survey of pastors, that the pressing financial needs that emerged — overwhelming debt, retirement contributions and financial advisement — need to be addressed.
Pastoral leaders cannot perform at maximum excellence when stressing about personal or congregational finances. Congregational leaders cannot make informed, strategic decisions when burdened with financial pressures. The negative stigma behind financial struggles and the shame and blame associated with it also impedes the work and call of our CBF ministers.
We want to help and we want our pastoral leaders to know that they are not alone.
Apply for Debt Relief
Before you begin filling out the application, gather the information on this checklist:
- General personal information including ministry job history
- Current church address, faith group affiliations, weekly attendance and offering totals and annual budget total
- Individual and spousal salary and benefits details
- Financial information including balances for all bank accounts, loans and credit card accounts
- Retirement account information
- Read and understand the Covenant Agreement.
- Trusted congregational advocate information - find more information here.
Please note that Ministerial Excellence Fund grants are only available to congregational ministers affiliated with CBF. Due to the scope and limitations of the grant, non-congregational ministers are not eligible to apply.
Criteria for review and award:
Applications will be evaluated according to various criteria such as:
- Level of active engagement with CBF
- Affirmation of all required covenant activities
- Financial need related to CBF primary focus areas: debt, health benefits and retirement benefits
Frequently Asked Questions
Engaging a holistic approach to financial education, these efforts will consider financial goals as well as one’s calling, family circumstances and future plans. Our priority is to educate the whole of our Fellowship by reaching pastoral leadership, congregations and CBF leadership through Lake Institute training events and ongoing events through Peer Learning Groups, Church Works, CBF General Assembly, State & Regional Meetings, CBF Fellows, and CBF Church Benefits.
Peer Learning Groups - With more than 120 peer learning groups providing a safe and effective learning environment, CBF will provide support of $250 for 40 groups each year to sponsor an in-depth study of personal and congregational healthy financial practices. Each Peer Learning Group will be able to select resources or connect with industry experts who can address their collected interests and concerns in a small group setting. Learn more about CBF Peer Learning Groups here.
Church Works - At an annual gathering of ministers, lay leaders, church starters, seminary students and CBF leadership, the programming will include presentations of unique financial challenges discovered among CBF clergy. Healthy financial practices, resources and the Ministerial Excellence Fund application process will also be shared.
CBF General Assembly: MEI Leadership will present a report to the Assembly and a workshop related to MEI grant activity, Pastoral Leadership and Personal Finance, and Pastoral Leadership and Congregational Finance at a well-attended pastoral and lay leadership annual gathering. A gathering for CBF advocates will be held to allow for community building and fund-raising. A gathering for fund-raisers and coaches will also be held.
State and Regional Meetings: Nineteen state and regional CBF organizations gather together through the year building upon the community of support within CBF connecting ministers and congregations. CBF will provide financial literacy education to the pastoral and congregational leadership in their region.
CBF Fellows: The CBF Fellows program assists young clergy who are in their "first-call" in making a healthy transition from seminary to congregational ministry. This is a cohort-based learning of 12-15 first-call pastoral leaders. Fellows are immersed into the full spectrum of leadership development learnings including the Workplace Big Five Instrument, Bowen Systems Theory, Adaptive Leadership, Improvisational Skills, as well as personal and congregational financial principles. CBF Fellows are also eligible to apply for a MEI grant.
CBF Church Benefits is preparing for regional events for retirement planning and financial education. These events would include many of the same materials used in our Ministerial Excellence Initiative training (MEI). The benefits of the MEI program and its goals and objectives would be highlighted in each event. In addition, CBF Church Benefits events would include material related to financial issues and planning in its communication plan including a new newsletter and blog effort. The intention is to extend and enhance MEI efforts. Learn more about CBF Church Benefits here.
CBF Church Benefits Guide to Minister Compensation is a resource prepared for the churches in a practical way so that the assets of the congregation will be balanced, competitive, and appropriate and include a well thought out compensation and benefits plan that communicates a congregation’s care, concern and appreciation for their ministers and staff. This resource along with co-branded tax and payroll guides provided in cooperation with ECFA provide a significant source of information and training to our constituency.
Financial DNA: Grantees and their spouses can complete an online survey which reveals their personal financial profile. In just 15-20 minutes, participants can use this free tool to get a closer look at their financial behaviors of which they may have been unaware.
Virtual Online Library: The Ministries staff of CBF in conjunction with a group within the Ministries Council will oversee the initiative's Virtual Online Library of Teaching Resources. Links to recommended resources, video blogs and presentations from CBF events and gatherings will be included for those unable to attend. CBF will also post grant information such as grant program updates and testimonies by grantees and educational program participants. Click here for virtual library.
Lake Institute Events - These opportunities will teach fiscal expertise and sound strategies to enhance the financial literacy and management skills of pastoral leaders in relation to both personal and congregational needs. These trainings are mandatory for grant recipients and their trusted congregational advocates.
Regional Training Courses:
Each grant recipient will attend the specialized Regional Training Courses, The Pastoral Leader and Personal Finance and The Pastoral Leader and Congregational Finance designed in collaboration between CBF and The Lake Institute teaching faculty. These one-day gatherings will include topics such as budgeting, generosity and how clergy financial health affects the church. Following the training, grantees will report new discoveries and lingering questions. These one-day gatherings will expand the conversation and learnings into the various regions of the Fellowship.
Cultivating Generous Congregations (CGC) Conference:
During this three-day conference, participants will delve more deeply into theological grounding, best practices, and strategizing to lead congregations to become a more generous stewards of their resources. This will occur twice a year in strategic regional locations to encourage participation.