Thursday, October 13, 2016

Paying for Seminary Education

Theological education is a good thing.  Few would argue that becoming a more fully formed and equipped minister is a bad thing.   Like most good things, however, a seminary education is not cheap. 

Central Baptist Theological Seminary recently released its annual report which includes the sources of tuition and gifts that fund the seminary’s budget of over $3 million dollars.

Students provide 31 percent through the payment of tuition.  Basically, they are paying one-third of the cost of their education.

Thirty-four percent comes from foundations like the Lilly Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, and the Luce Foundation.  Much of this funding goes to special programs and initiatives. 

Individuals provide 30 percent of the seminary budget.  These gifts—both large and small—come from people who believe that theological education is important and are passionate about the mission of the seminary.

Two percent comes from the American Baptist Churches Central Region.  This is greatly appreciated in a time when denominational budgets are stretched thin. 

Two percent comes directly from churches. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the last figure could be multiplied ten times?  In all honesty, few churches are willing or able to increase their giving to the seminary without some clear and motivating purpose.  Let me suggest three:

First, when a church discovers a young person within their fellowship who has responded to a call to ministry (and they are few and far between these days), the church can provide affirmation in many ways, but one specific way is to assist that student to attend seminary by providing some tuition funds.  The investment in the student speaks volumes about the church’s belief in the student’s calling.

Second, there is a trend in churches to call out gifted men and women from within the congregation to assume ministry positions.  The effectiveness of these individuals would be enhanced by enrolling in a seminary degree program, and the church could help to fund this expense over and above the individual’s benefit package.  With the seminary’s new online curriculum, the student can be anywhere in the world and take advantage of seminary studies.  Both the church staff member and the church benefit from this arrangement.

Third, a church might choose to become a teaching church, inviting an enrolled seminary student to become part of the church’s ministry team while providing a portion of the student’s tuition as part of the total benefit package.  This helps the church by engaging a minister-in-training and assists the student both financially and educationally.

A new generation of Christian leaders is dependent on foundations, churches, and individuals for their education.  It is worthy investment of resources.

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