Divinity students who receive Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarships from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) not only avoid accumulating thousands of dollars in debt, but also gain confidence in their ability to complete seminary and in the United Methodist Church’s commitment to their ministry.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, 199 Master of Divinity students received $1,632.500 from the scholarship program, with individual award amounts ranging from $2,500 to $12,500.
“Receiving this Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship helps me to really perform at my best in seminary because it allows me to have peace of mind (and) less stress about how I'm going to pay for my seminary education,” said Lathem Postell, member of the Connectional Table and a student at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University.
A survey of the recipients, prepared for the Office of Loans and Scholarships at GBHEM, showed that over 90 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the scholarships eased the financial burden in their educational pursuits, reduced their education-related financial borrowing and reduced the amount of student debt they will have when they graduate.
Students responding to the survey said they collectively avoided $760,338 in additional debt because of the scholarships. The entire survey is available here.
The scholarship recipients surveyed represent 47 of the 57 United Methodist Annual Conferences. Funding for the scholarship program, now in its second year, comes from these matching donors: GBHEM, the Lilly Endowment, the 13 United Methodist seminaries/schools of theology, and participating annual conferences and foundations.
Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of Loans and Scholarships at GBHEM, said support is needed from across the denomination to maintain the Excellence in Clergy Leadership scholarship. Financial support from additional donor partners will enable even more divinity students to benefit when scholarships are awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year, the program’s third year.
To donate to the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship, visit gbhem.org/donate4students or send a donation to GBHEM Loans and Scholarships, 1 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203.
Postell, who serves as student pastor at Central Valley United Methodist Church in Chatsworth, Georgia, said the scholarship demonstrates the church’s commitment to providing assistance to people like him who are called to the ministry.
“It has given me personal peace of mind that seminary is something that I can do and so it has given me assurance in myself and my abilities to continue on this process. But it has also shown me that the church as a whole is serious about the connection we have and about the commitment to equipping leaders for the future,” Postell said.
In addition to helping students avoid accumulating additional debt, the overall goals of the scholarship program are to help enhance their financial literacy, support the achievement of their educational and career goals, and strengthen their connection to The United Methodist Church.
Another benefit of the scholarship program is the required financial wellness curriculum offered through EY Financial Planning Services that includes assistance with cash flow, personal savings and debt management, retirement savings strategies, investment allocation decisions, understanding tax issues, and estate and insurance planning.
“We learned the importance of saving for retirement, even when we have current financial goals. We cannot continue to put off retirement savings,” one respondent to the survey said.
Another respondent said, “I have been more consistent about budgeting in order to live within my means and reduce my educational and consumer debt.”
To learn more about the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarships and other scholarships available from GBHEM, go online to gbhem.org/loansandscholarships.
About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.