Diane Owen was recently named Lilly grant program director for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area—a role through which she will oversee the implementation of a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. that was awarded to the area late last year.
The grant funding will be used to help pastors develop stronger financial literacy skills, reduce or eliminate personal debt, and become equipped to foster a theology of generosity within their congregations. It was given as part of Lilly Endowment’s initiative to address economic challenges facing pastoral leaders.
Owen, a resident of Burnsville, is excited to help clergy and churches grow in their financial well-being.
“I want to guide our pastors to financial health so they can lead their churches to financial health to reach our mission: to make disciples for the transformation of the world,” said Owen.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.
Why does Lilly Endowment care about economic challenges facing pastors? The religion division of Lilly Endowment is committed to strengthening the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. Financial burdens carried by pastors are significant barriers to effective, faithful, and fruitful ministry.
“It is difficult to lead others and a church when you are not confident and comfortable with your financial situation,” Owen said. “I hope to help clergy and churches move away from the scarcity mentality.”
Before applying for the grant, the Dakotas-Minnesota Area contracted with a research firm to acquire information from clergy, clergy spouses, and laity regarding debt and financial literacy. Among the findings revealed through an online survey and in-person focus groups: Young clergy (between the ages of 25 and 44) identified educational debt as the most stressful and burdensome type of debt—and nearly half have educational debt that exceeds $25,000. Clergy surveyed also indicated a significant need for increased training. Nearly 60 percent of young clergy said they are less-than-satisfied with their knowledge regarding personal finances, and only 30 percent believe they have the training necessary to effectively manage congregational finances.
With the help of the grant, the Dakotas-Minnesota Area will offer:
• Financial literacy training for clergy in their first three years of ministry
• Grants through a Ministerial Excellence Fund
• Two years of financial management training for new clergy
Owen’s first year will be spent seeking to understand more about the specific issues that clergy and churches throughout the Dakotas-Minnesota Area are facing. Owen will travel throughout the conferences to listen and learn. She’ll also form a steering committee to guide specific strategies.
Owen is no stranger to leadership and organizational development. She has a master’s degree in business with an emphasis on organizational theory and change. A lifelong United Methodist, she has worked with the Minnesota Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry, led transformational processes for Minnesota churches—including the Healthy Church Initiative, and provided other congregational development training and assistance.
“I have worked in the hotel industry and other for-profit environments,” said Owen. “I really have found my passion around working for non-profit, mission-based organizations. I am thrilled to be able to work with the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of my church.”
Owen will spend most of her time traveling and working out of a mobile office. She will also have a physical space within the Minnesota Conference office in Minneapolis. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church