Each Sunday in United Methodist churches across Indiana, members and friends gather for worship, study and fellowship. Church members expect that there will be a well-educated, qualified pastor to preach, teach and counsel in their congregation and community. This takes education and training and for many of our clergy that means earning a Master of Divinity degree from an approved seminary.
The average cost of tuition in our 13 United Methodist seminaries is about $52,000 for a three-year program. Books and living expenses for students and their families will depend on where they live and will increase this total. Many of our clergy return to the Indiana Conference with average educational debt between $50,000 and $70,000. This includes both their undergraduate and seminary degrees. As you can imagine, they find it challenging to pay back these loans on the conference minimum salary of $37,000.
Shalimar Holderly, an elder in our conference, grew up in The United Methodist Church and received support throughout her childhood and young adult years to explore her call to ministry. After high school she attended the United Methodist-related University of Indianapolis. There she participated in the development of the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations. Shalimar says that her role in the development of the Center had an enormous impact on her life. She pursued her call to ministry at United Methodist-related Duke Divinity School where she was shaped by her experience as an intern at Duke Chapel. She was fortunate to leave seminary with very little debt, because of the scholarships she received.
Shalimar was one of the fortunate few. For many clergy the story is very different. With declining scholarship opportunities and rising educational costs, most have found it necessary to take out loans during their seminary education.
Rejuvenate is a ministry of the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, in partnership with the Indiana Conference and the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Rejuvenate Ministry is working with clergy to improve their financial situation by:
- Increasing their financial literacy, which helps them cope with their current financial situation; and
- With grants to help reduce their educational debt.
While this is having a significant impact both on the lives of the participating clergy and their congregations, the better approach would be to provide scholarships to students while they are in seminary to help avoid the debt entirely.
This year the Indiana Annual Conference approved a conference-wide offering for seminary scholarships in September. The Pastor Appreciation Offering is an opportunity to say thank you for the pastoral leadership you have had and to invest in the leadership that you will have. A gift of one dollar ($1) from each member would provide scholarships for up to 20 students and this can be doubled with the Lilly Endowment grant. Your participation in this offering will help gifted students complete their seminary education with fewer financial burdens, allowing them more energy and resources to invest back into ministry.
For more information, contact Mary Ann Moman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Ann Moman is executive director of the Indiana Conference Rejuvenate Ministry, which is related to the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana based in Fishers.