Love for Pastor Leads Family to Invest in Future Ministers
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“Don was an oil man in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and he worked for Phillips 66 for many years,” explains Jonathan Watson, lead pastor of Bella Vista (Arkansas) Assembly of God since 2004. “Following his retirement, he and Nadean moved to Bella Vista and became RV Volunteers. They traveled the country helping build dozens of AG churches, including many churches for Hispanic congregations.”
Sadly, Don developed Alzheimer’s and suffered some heart problems and passed away in 2016. While his family was going through some of his papers, they came across a $30,000 certificate of deposit (CD) that had matured — it was a gift given to Don years ago while he was working at Phillips that was to be used for charitable purposes. Nadean and her children wanted to see the money go toward blessing individual ministerial students through an endowment, but how?
“We connected with the Assemblies of God Oklahoma Foundation,” Watson says. “And they were able to figure out a way to make it work.”
When Don’s funeral was held, the family asked that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made for the endowment. Those gifts coupled with additional gifts from the McGuire family doubled the initial endowment investment to $60,000.
Kevin Conner is the director of finance and operations at the Oklahoma District Council of the Assemblies of God, which founded the AGOK Foundation in 2015. He explains that the purpose of the foundation is to work with donors and churches to establish endowment funds, which invest in future generations. Specifically, endowment funds must ultimately support the work of AG missions or ministry to youth or children.
Nadean and her family decided that distributions from the endowment fund the money earned, would be returned to Bella Vista Assembly of God, and would be used to pay for ministerial students taking school of ministry (SOM) or Global University online courses.
“How it works,” Watson says, “is that an approved student will complete an SOM or Global course — which typically costs about $85 — and he or she will mail us the completion certificate receipt and grade, and we mail them the money to purchase the next course.”
“The endowments pay 5% a year,” Conner says. “So, in the case of the McGuire’s endowment, it now creates a little more than $3,000 a year for investing in AG young people pursuing ministry credentials.”
Since the endowments are restricted funds, any money earned in excess of the annual distribution of 5% and the foundation’s 1% administrative fee, is reinvested into the fund so that it continues to grow over time.
The McGuires, in coordination with Bella Vista AG, started the endowment fund with AGOK Foundation in 2018 and since that time, the church has received two disbursements for students, so far helping 30 to 40 individuals start or continue their path to becoming credentialed ministers.
“Eighty-five dollars doesn’t sound like much [for a course], unless you don’t have $85,” Watson observes. He adds that people often break down in tears when they realize the offer [to pay for their courses] is real.
Watson explains that through personal, church, and online connections, he has been able to find people needing help getting credentials — something that would be difficult for the McGuire family to do — and the process has become personally highly fulfilling. One of the requirements he has instituted for students who receive help through the McGuires’ endowment is that they send a thank you letter to the McGuire family.
“Nadean just passed away last month,” Watson says. “In the final years of her life, she moved to a care facility. Her son used to pick up the packet of thank you letters and bring them out to her. He called me one day and told me how Nadean read one letter after another to him. He was there to see how she was doing, and all she wanted to talk about was those thank you letters — how the endowment was really helping young people enter the ministry — they became one of her greatest joys.”
Watson believes that almost every AG church could create an endowment or at least budget to help young (or older) people called into the ministry pay for SOM or Global courses, one at a time.
Conner agrees, saying that for churches in districts that don’t have a foundation to help them with creating an endowment, the AGOK Foundation can assist them with information about how it works, how to promote and raise funds for an endowment, and the AGOK Foundation can manage the endowment for them.
“Under the leadership of Superintendent Frank Cargill, we started in 2015 with one endowment and $20,000,” Conner says. “Today we have 43 different endowments and about $1.4 million in assets, paying out about $70,000 a year into ministries — and it continues to grow.” He adds that a benefit of an endowment is that a church only needs to raise the money once and then it continues to pay back year after year.
“I know of young people — Teen Challenge workers, missionary associates, ministers’ spouses, young people coming out of Chi Alpha, and even some on church staffs — who want to get credentialed,” Watson says. “All they need is somebody to come beside them to lift up their arms, like Moses had . . . I believe that there are multiple churches in every section in every district of the nation that could set aside money to scholarship young people who are hungry for the ministry.”
If a church already has an endowment or funds set aside for ministerial scholarships, Conner notes that some churches create endowments for things such as camp scholarships for kids, Royal Rangers, or to make sure they always have enough funds to support — even bless — their missionaries.
“Don and Nadean were just real people who did something ‘out of the box,’” Watson says, “and now, through their gift, countless young people will have the opportunity to enter the ministry — from now until Jesus comes!”