INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Area United Methodist Bishop Mike Coyner announced Feb. 20 that the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church has received a $50,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment to conduct a study of the financial and well-being needs of the state's 1,000 United Methodist pastors now serving in 1,200 Indiana congregations.

According to Coyner, the prompting for the study came from the Lilly Endowment who invited several denominations in Indiana to conduct an actual study of pastor's financial needs.

Based on information provided by the United Methodist General Board of Ordained Ministry by ministerial candidates, the clergy school debt has been growing larger and larger with many candidates having school debts of $30,000 or more, not including other indebtedness.

"After we conduct the survey, we will have factual data about most or all of our active pastors in Indiana, so we will have a better picture of the problem," said Coyner.

The results of this study could be used to prepare a larger grant request of the Lilly Endowment to develop programs and policies to help pastors and their families.

Following a recent meeting with Lilly Endowment officials, Coyner said "they are allowing us to broaden our study to learn more about the over-all levels of happiness of our clergy, wellness issues and also financial issues. We are calling this study 'The Well-Lived Pastoral Life' - a term used by one of the Lilly Endowment leaders, Dr. John Wimmer, to reflect our concern for the total well-being of our pastors."

The study will be conducted by Dr. Matthew Bloom, a professor at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, who specializes in studying professions.

Coyner has sent letters to all active pastors outlining the study and asking for them to participate in the survey. Letters from Bloom were recently sent to pastors explaining how to participate in the survey either on-line or by mail. Results from these surveys will be anonymous and will be compiled by Bloom in order to provide the data for development of plans to meet the needs of pastors and their families.

Coyner further said, "This study grant gives us a wonderful opportunity to learn the actual facts about the needs, desires and frustrations of our clergy so that we can develop a helpful response. Once those survey results and program plans are developed, then a further request can be made to the Lilly Endowment for the larger grant that the endowment is inviting us to seek. I am excited about opportunity to study our clergy and hopefully to respond to their issues."