Monday, November 2, 2015

Churches partnering with Duke Divinity School to limit clergy debt have raised more than $70,000 for student scholarships.

The 55 churches, which are located across the U.S., are part of the school’s “Celebrating God’s Call” program to expand student scholarships. The program asks all Master of Divinity degree students to encourage their home congregations to support them with prayers and financial assistance. (See a list of partner churches (pdf).)

The program is part of a larger initiative funded by a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant to address economic issues facing future ministers. Personal financial pressures are limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of many clergy members, according to the initiative, which encourages theological schools to work to improve the financial well-being of future pastors.

“Through the grant from the Lilly Endowment, Duke Divinity School is able to focus strategically on the economic challenges facing students and future ministers,” said the Rev. Rhonda Parker, director of field education at the school. “We are especially grateful for churches who partner with us by participating in Celebrating God’s Call. The church’s participation affirms the value of an academically rigorous education for future church leaders.”

The Divinity School also has a task force that studies clergy and student indebtedness and a "Mentoring 4 Ministry" program that offers student workshops on topics that include stewardship and financial management.

In addition, the “No Debt Challenge” program offered two May 2015 graduates $2,000 transition-to-ministry awards for their efforts to finish school debt-free, bringing a total of four students who have now received transition-to-ministry grants. The program will continue for current students through 2017.