Study looks into worker debt

The nation’s three largest Lutheran church bodies are conducting a study to determine the extent of indebtedness of their rostered professional church workers.
 
They are The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).
 
Interviews ended in mid-December with a sampling of professional church workers in all three church bodies via e-mail, U.S. mail and telephone.  A final report is scheduled to be available March 15.
 
Among the expected outcomes of the study, said Bev Gregory, vice president-marketing research for the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, are “an analysis of trends, levels of indebtedness, and identified behaviors related to financial issues and subsequent methods to cope with them.”
 
Gregory said that the study also “will increase church-leadership awareness and help church bodies become more proactive in assisting workers with specific ways to address future financial issues.”
 
The study grew out of a grant proposal that LCEF submitted to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to determine the indebtedness of LCMS workers.
 
“Thrivent’s response to LCEF was positive,” said Gregory, “but they asked us to consider partnering with the ELCA and WELS for the study.”  She said that she checked with representatives of the two other Lutheran bodies and found that “they were very interested.”
 
Thrivent granted $75,000 and the three churches added a total of another $25,000 for the study. 
 
“LCEF believes that the professional church workers in our churches, schools and recognized service organizations are wrestling with financial issues at some level, but we do not know the extent of their indebtedness,” Gregory said. “We want to have a good understanding of their financial awareness, including but not limited to tuition, assets, debt from school, and salary compensation with ministry.”
 
Gregory said that researchers from the three Lutheran bodies “have agreed to work together and share comparative data” for the study, which is being conducted by an independent research organization.  She stressed that “the privacy and anonymity of this research is of utmost importance.”

January 2004

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