Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith in your coming, that, transformed by grace, we may walk in your way; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW Advent 3)
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come…
We have a dream, and with your help through this special Advent Appeal, we have the opportunity to free our Southwestern Minnesota Synod pastors from seminary educational debt. This action will set pastors free for greater generosity in their congregations and beyond.
Your financial gift to the Advent Appeal will go to the Ministerial Excellence Fund – one part of our Embrace God’s Mission + Equip God’s People funding initiative. Your gift will be doubled by a grant from the Lilly Foundation. A quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) has been designated as a matching grant. That means for every dollar we raise, a matching dollar will be released for the purpose of reducing pastoral educational debt, providing pension equity, and helping with the financial burden of medical emergencies.
We are inviting your generous gift to this annual Advent Appeal. It will have an immediate effect on pastors in our synod. In short, we believe accelerating the elimination of their debt will free them to lead better, serve longer in our synod, and help them be more effective in their witness to Christ Jesus.
From research by the Lilly Foundation, here’s what we know:
- Financial burdens carried by pastoral leaders are significant barriers to effective, faithful, and fruitful ministry;
- Personal financial literacy contributes to healthier and stronger pastoral leadership;
- Ministers who are capable of providing excellent financial and managerial leadership can make invaluable contributions to the health and vitality of ministry in the parishes they serve.
Your synod is making an effort to help our pastors be more effective in their leadership. Our partnership will lead to flourishing and thriving congregations.
We have already received $40,369 of this $250,000 match! For this we are grateful. But we are asking you to join this effort to set our pastors free from debt and attract more pastors to Southwestern Minnesota Synod.
In September we were able to direct $16,000 toward the educational debt of 32 of our pastors. Each of these grants was $500. Here are some notes from pastors who received these $500 gifts:
“Broadly speaking, the grant helps chip away at the anxiety that debt stirs up in a person. With each dollar of debt gone I feel more liberated and more at ease with my family’s financial future. Moreover, this grant frees me up a little bit more, to quote Bishop Jon, “to lead and speak with confidence about a generous God that (I’ve) actually experienced,” and increases my confidence in being able to serve in this community to which I’ve “been called to lead.” I am grateful.” – Joe Skogmo, Pastor, St. Paul’s, Lowry
“I am deeply grateful for the generous gift paid toward my seminary loan debt and the room it gives me to save and plan ahead. Thank you to the Paul Johnson estate and his faithful planning – his generosity has spilled over onto me! I am grateful for this gift and thank you for making it possible. I am glad to be a partner with you in ministry.” – Laura Aase, Pastor, River of Hope, Hutchinson
Through your generous gift and the matching funds, we hope to give another round of grants in February at our Equipping Congregations Day for five or six times $500.
Will you help us reach this goal?
We predict a third of our pastors will become free of their educational debt over the next three years because of you and these matching funds. Along with other financial counseling, we expect to meet the goal of healthier and stronger pastoral leaders, freeing pastors to provide excellent financial leadership and contribute to the vitality of ministry in the congregations they are called to serve in Southwestern Minnesota Synod.
Please join this dream and help make it a reality with your generous gift.
Bishop Jon V. Anderson