In Support of Excellence

Churches have moved on-line; will faithful givers move, too?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Matthew 6:25

Millions of Americans file for unemployment in unprecedented economic downturn

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”

Matthew 6:28b

Exposed: the racial and ethnic fault lines of economic injustice

“Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

Financial living and leading are uniquely difficult in this present moment. Thankfully, the promises of God and the vision of God’s economy we receive in scripture are as relevant today as when Jesus offered these teachings to his followers.

In Support of Excellence (ISOE) is an invitation for pastors to bring the personal, the pastoral, and the prophetic dimensions of money together in one place, learning and reflecting with seasoned leaders and a trusted cohort of colleagues.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies has provided financial education and debt-relief grants to pastors since 2016*, supporting clergy as they take steps toward financial well-being and assist members of their congregations in the same. The premise is simple—financial stress affects and infects every part of our lives, including our call to serve God’s Church. By contrast, pastors who are secure and confident in their financial well-being tend to experience greater ease and freedom in their ministry. We want you to serve long and with love for the ministry because you know such ease in your life.

In 2021, we have chosen to partner with pastors of excellence in populations identified in research as being structurally disadvantaged in financial matters from compensation to saving for retirement or other life goals:

  • Women pastors,
  • Pastors of diverse cultural and ethnic identities and
  • Pastors whose roles have been decreased from full-time to less than full-time.

Priority consideration will be given to these applicants.

Each month ISOE pastors will participate in virtual offerings:

  • a content-based session to inspire new thinking,
  • a reflection session with an identity-based cohort to create new connections and
  • a tool or resource session to shape new financial practices.

Ongoing communication and support will be hosted on the ministrElife platform.

In addition, ISOE pastors may:

  • access financial planning services from MMBB (for members) or another planning/coaching entity (for those who are not MMBB members);
  • apply for a debt-relief grant to alleviate the burden of student loans, medical debt or other forms of consumer debt; and
  • apply for a financial-education grant to support the congregation’s continued learning about faith and finance.

If safe to do so, we will conclude our year in November 2021 with an in-person gathering at the Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa. All expenses for participating in the program are supported by the grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.

For more information, contact Jennifer Sanborn, ISOE’s program director, at [email protected].

Key Dates

  • Application opens: Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020
  • Application deadline: Friday, Oct. 9, 2020

Please note that executive minister and lay leader letters of recommendation are expected by the same deadline.

  • Application review period: Oct. 9-Nov. 9, 2020

All applicants will receive either an invitation to the formal ISOE program or information and resources to self-organize a similar experience of financial learning.

  • Orientation and virtual retreat: Thursday, Jan. 7 and Friday, Jan. 8
  • Monthly sessions will be scheduled to accommodate presenter schedules and announced in advance.

Sessions will be held at times suitable for all U.S. time zones, and with ample rest/reflection time between Zoom sessions.


To be eligible to participate in ISOE, an applicant must be an American Baptist pastor of an American Baptist church, submit a reference from the appropriate regional executive minister and a congregational lay leader, and demonstrate evidence of the following:

  • pastoral excellence;
  • financial challenges;
  • capacity to partner with lay leaders in managing church finances and envisioning financial possibility;
  • potential for increased congregational generosity and stewardship, including providing toward the Ministerial Excellence Fund grant pool and
  • willingness to commit to full program participation and requirements.

The application window for the 2020-21 cohort is now closed. 

Financial empowerment for laity

ABHMS’ Financial Empowerment Ministries makes resources available to American Baptist laity who are interested in improving and increasing their knowledge and skills in financial management knowledge and skills, including budgeting, credit management, debt reduction and cash-flow planning. Two financial-empowerment resources are available:

  • ABHMS’ ministrElife online platform allows registered users to access financial empowerment Webinars and group chats as well as special tools and resources.
  • ABHMS participates in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Your Money, Your Goals” financial empowerment program.

For additional information, contact:

Jennifer Sanborn
ISOE Director
[email protected]

*ABHMS has been generously supported by two grants from the Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.