Some of the most generous donors to the newly-created Pastor Relief Fund have been fellow Texas Baptists pastors and churches. The Texas Baptists Pastor Relief Fund was established in March to provide grants to bi-vocational and small church pastors who were struggling financially by providing short-term financial support to those who have experienced economic difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Donations and pledges to the fund have totaled more than $200,000. Thus far, Texas Baptists has helped over 296 pastors overcome financial hardships through Pastor Relief Grants. In addition to the grants, all Texas Baptist pastors who applied were offered free access to Teladoc services for six months.
Helping pastors help others
Kevin Phillips, Discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church of Midlothian, explained the church decided to donate to the fund because they realized the important work these pastors are doing for their communities. Churches and pastors are perhaps the most aware of the challenges that other pastors go through and also know of the multitudes of good works, both public and not, that churches are engaged in on a daily basis.
“We want to support the Pastor Relief Fund because we believe it is a great way to impact Kingdom work around our state, in addition to what we are doing locally in our community,” Phillips said. “We are excited that this fund is allowing bi-vocational and other pastors to love and serve their community better because they can take care of their families. Whole communities can be loved well where pastors can be more financially secure. As God continues to bless our church, we hope to continue to support this fund.”
First Baptist Church of Decatur also recognized the good that these pastors are doing for this community.
"When you think of the sacrifices these pastors make for their churches, we had to come to their aid. We need each other," said David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur. "Dr. Jerry Raines, one of the retired pastors in our church, led the way in our expression of generosity. We thank God for our Baptist family pulling together in times like these."
Passing on the blessing
Churches across the state are getting creative to help provide for pastors who are experiencing financial troubles. At Austin Baptist Church, canceled mission trips provided an opportunity to reroute the money to support the Pastor Relief Fund. Eddie Cox, Missions Committee chairman, said the church was blessed to be able to set aside money for national and international mission teams, but travel restrictions due to COVID-19 meant many of the trips would no longer be happening in 2020. So, their missions committee decided to divert a portion of the missions budget towards the relief fund.
“When we heard about the financial issues a great number of our Texas bi-vocational pastors are experiencing, our missions committee quickly communicated via emails and texts to designate [money] from our missions budget to help to alleviate some of their financial pressure. Our prayers accompany each dollar awarded to these precious servants,” Cox said.
Craig Christina, associate executive director of Texas Baptists, donated to the fund for personal reasons. He explained that he knew firsthand how challenging the work can be and the financial struggles that can arise. His first pastorate was a new church start, and he was bi-vocational during that time.
“It was a struggle financially in the best of times,” Christina explained. “With the economic shut-down, many bi-vocational pastors lost their secular job and their churches don't always know how to practice online giving. The least we can do is help them survive this economic shut-down. The Lord has blessed me with a great job working for Texas Baptists. Blessing brings responsibility, and I feel compelled to share what the Lord has given me to help those in need.”
Jerry Carlisle, vice president of the Texas Baptist Mission Foundation, said this outpouring of giving shows the true collaborative spirit of churches around the state.
“The generosity of churches and pastors to bless small church pastors reveals the true character of Texas Baptists in collaborating to reach our state for Christ,” he said. “As Paul writes, ‘This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’ (2 Cor. 9:12,15 NIV).”
While many pastors have already been assisted, Texas Baptists has continued to receive applications from more pastors in need. To give to support the Pastor Relief Fund, click here.