The Division of Education and Clergy Development (ECD) is rooted in a deep commitment to pastoral wellbeing. They work to develop opportunities for pastors to grow healthier and, in the process, lead healthier churches.
Full Strength Network (FSN) is one ECD partner. FSN is dedicated to serving individuals in ministry by offering services proven to help them and their families thrive and flourish under church leadership pressures. Donors generously help FSN provide a membership program, offering ministry leaders access to a variety of services like confidential counseling, coaching, peer huddles, wellbeing content and respite referrals. Through a special FSN/ECD arrangement, any staff member on payroll at a Wesleyan church is eligible for a discounted 12-month membership rate of $109.
“Sometimes as pastors, we think it’s selfish to care for ourselves, but we need to,” reflected Rev. Mandi Smith, Awaken and Residency pastor at Ransom Church, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She started her FSN membership when her family began their life there. As her daughter struggled with the transition, Rev. Smith recognized their need for counseling. A $200-per-session price tag made counseling unattainable for both.
ECD introduced Rev. Smith to FSN, which provided her with professional counseling. “My counselor has been incredible and has blessed me in countless ways. Sometimes you get in ruts. … and you need some adjustments — for someone to help you see to the bigger picture.”
With access to affordable counseling, Rev. Smith found she’s able to better lead and shepherd. “FSN helps me to be more empathetic with the people and pastors I lead and serve. This is work that everybody can and should do. It’s hard work but it’s worthwhile, and it helps us serve the kingdom better.”
FSN helps me to be more empathetic with the people and pastors I lead and serve. This is work that everybody can and should do.
Dave Higle, ECD’s director of Clergy Care and Development, suggests that since FSN’s cost is so affordable for such a high value, local churches should consider making an FSN membership part of their budget for the pastors’ wellbeing.
Another opportunity available to local church pastors is Thrive Financial Initiative (TFI), funded by a Lilly Endowment grant and sustained through ECD efforts. The program is designed to help pastors overcome economic challenges that affect ministry effectiveness. Pastors and key lay leaders work together to provide extra funds or resources to support the pastor, complete required financial learning journeys and receive a matching grant.
"Being in seminary has created a new foundation for me to lead from — which wouldn’t be possible without the TFI support."
TFI provided the funds needed for Rev. Todd Sloan’s last semester at Wesley Seminary. Rev. Sloan, executive pastor at Fellowship Community Church, Spring Hill, Florida, said, “For me, the biggest benefit of TFI was in helping me get a degree that helped my own spiritual formation…
Being in seminary has created a new foundation for me to lead from — which wouldn’t be possible without the TFI support.” The Florida District uses TFI and FSN to support pastors in education, counseling and financial stability.
Additionally, Rev. Sloan met with a financial advisor and his congregation to shore up some gaps in his financial planning. “It can be terrifying, but it’s a huge benefit to you and your congregation,” he said. “It helps you talk about finances without shame or baggage of the past … and in a more holistic perspective.” He emphasizes the importance of including lay leaders in the process.
“Most pastors are working and praying for healthy churches,” said Rev. Ethan Linder of College Wesleyan Church, Marion, Indiana. “Sometimes, our lack of focus on our health gets in the way. TFI and FSN offer opportunities for pastors and families to make strides toward the kinds of wellbeing we hope for in our churches.”