The Golden Cross Foundation, a ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC), awarded more than $125,000 to churches and organizations throughout the conference in 2020. Money from the grants has been used toward retrofitting a parsonage to house low-income older adults to establishing food pantries to retrofitting churches with lifts or repaving parking lots making them more accessible and welcoming.

Founded in 2013, the Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) provides funding assistance for new and ongoing ministries and services with older adults in the Tennessee Conference. Staff also provides expertise and strategic planning to the conference for expanding innovative and effective ministries with older adults through ENCORE Ministry which is financially underwritten by GCF.

“From day one, I’ve always said the foundation exists to give money away,” said GCF Executive Director Kent McNish. “Each year, GCF board members review and approve grant requests from UM churches and organizations throughout the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church.”

In 2020, 21 grants were awarded ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Several churches receiving grant money applied it toward feeding ministries, including Elder’s Chapel UMC in Smyrna, Tennessee. Now, more than ever, their food pantry is a vital community ministry.

“Without the Golden Cross grant, our food pantry would not be thriving today,” said Elder’s Chapel member Shelia Howse. “Our numbers have increased 100 percent over the last six months due to the COVID-19 virus. We thank God that we are able to continue the food pantry during these times of uncertainty. The nutrition needs of seniors and others within the community goes on in spite of the virus and we at Elder’s UMC are here to aid in meeting their needs.”

Other churches applied grant money toward retrofitting their churches with new lifts or improving parking lots to increase accessibility. Such improvements can make older adult worshippers feel welcomed and valued. In some cases, the upgrades encouraged worshippers to return to church.

Grant money is also being used by churches and organizations for new and innovative programs. Members of New Providence UMC in Clarksville, Tennessee, used their grant money to help retrofit a parsonage on the church property that, when complete, will house low-income adults.

“I look forward to the opportunity for our church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community,” said the Rev. Jodi McBryant, pastor at New Providence. “Thanks in part to the Golden Cross Foundation grant funding our parsonage’s retrofitting project, this is one way we can do that. Many times, churches seem to focus more on children and youth. While they are certainly important, my heart breaks for older adults in our communities who are often forgotten.”

Golden Cross Foundation grant money was also used to help fund a Safer Worship Grant. Established by GCF, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College, the grant helped 34 churches provide safer in-person worship experiences. After local health officials deemed it safe to gather and churches began to reopen in the summer and fall of 2020, funds were used to help reimburse expenses for masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies.

During the pandemic, GCF’s board of directors met, virtually, to review grant proposals. In 2020, grants were given to churches of all sizes including 30-member Scott’s UMC in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and 925-member Belle Meade UMC in Nashville. Recipients were:

Church Amount Project/Ministry
Belle Meade UMC $2,500 Senior counseling center
Bethel UMC $10,000 Install four-person lift
Centertown UMC $10,170 Forklift for food pantry
Christ UMC McMinnville $5,000 Retrofit for online worship
Clarkrange UMC $7,400 Install stair lift
Elder’s Chapel UMC $2,500 Food pantry
First UMC Shelbyville $10,000 Community Soup Kitchen
First UMC Winchester $10,000 Install four-person lift
Glencliff UMC $10,000 Retrofitting projects
Gordon Memorial UMC $8,000 Best Years Club
Homestead UMC $2,529.75 Repair lift
Ivy Bluff UMC $1,000 Homebound ministry
Madison Street UMC $5,000 Retrofit for online worship
Miriam’s Promise $1,250 Webinar helping grandparents prepare for an adopted grandchild
Morton Memorial UMC $2,500 Retrofit for online worship
New Providence UMC $10,000 Retrofit parsonage for low-income seniors
Scott’s UMC $2,500 Food pantry
Smyrna First UMC $1,200 Food pantry
Summerfield UMC $4,319.35 Retrofit kitchen for accessibility
Tennessee Ridge UMC $10,000 Resurface parking log
Westland UMC $10,000 Van for transportation ministry

Since 2014, more than $620,000 in grant money has been awarded to 61 churches and organizations.

“Word continues to spread about the Golden Cross Foundation grants and the positive impact they are making in older adults’ lives,” said McNish. “If your church wants to start or expand an older adult ministry or you want to retrofit your building to make it more accessible, safe, and welcoming, we encourage you to apply.”

Grant applications are accepted all year and reviewed at quarterly GCF board meetings. For more information and an online application, click here or visit

For more information about the Golden Cross Foundation and churches and organizations receiving grant money, visit or contact Kent McNish, executive director of The Golden Cross Foundation at or 615-479-6175. To receive Golden Cross Connections, a free bi-monthly enewsletter highlighting recent Golden Cross Foundation grants and activity, contact