The Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship is designated for full-time Master of Divinity Students, pursuing ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church, and at one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries/schools of theology.

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry launched a debt-avoidance scholarship collaboration in 2017 as one component of the UMC Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. Inspired by a $1,000,000 grant awarded to Wespath (UMC General Board of Pension and Health Benefits) in 2016 by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Wespath, GBHEM and the National Association of United Methodist Foundations collaborated to launch this scholarship and other financial literacy efforts in partnership with United Methodist foundations, annual conferences and seminaries and schools of theology.

Award Amount: $2,500 – $11,000

The final award amount is based on matching donations and award approval from participating funding partners.


  • United Methodist pursuing or certified candidate for ministry (elder or deacon)

  • Demonstrate merit, progress, and commitment in the candidacy process

  • Full-time MDIV student enrolled at one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries/schools of theology

  • Demonstrate financial need and how this scholarship will help avoid additional student loans

  • Approval/recommendation through funding partner’s scholarship committee review

Applicants will receive and must participate in assistance from a financial counselor from the EY Financial Planning Center or participate in a Saving Grace approved cohort curriculum. The curriculum through EY includes assistance with cash flow, personal savings and debt management, retirement savings strategies, investment allocation decisions, understanding tax issues, and estate and insurance planning. Scholarship recipients complete a financial wellness assessment, a comprehensive and customized financial plan, and a personalized guidance consultation with a licensed planner.

AWARD RANGES $2,500 – $11,000

The individual award amount is based on matching donations and award approval from participating funding partners which could be one or more of the following:

• The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

• The applicant’s United Methodist Annual Conference (if participating as a funding partner to the program)

• The United Methodist Foundation connected with the applicant’s annual conference (if participating as a funding partner to the program)

• Wespath Benefits and Investments (a few restricted awards funded from Lilly Endowment National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders)

Complete applications must be submitted online and include the following:

  • Most recent copy of transcript
  • United Methodist Church ministry and candidacy references
  • Completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Completed applications will be reviewed by a committee who will evaluate applications and award recipients by demonstrated financial need, ministry readiness, academic achievement, and availability of funds. Funds will disburse upon completion of financial literacy requirement, and receipt of verification of enrollment for the fall term. All funds will be made payable to the college and/or university.

• Commit to fund a specified number and amount of scholarship awards through this scholarship

• Promote the scholarship opportunity to potential students

• Review, judge and make award decisions based on merit of screened qualified applicants within their area

•Submit final award decisions to the GBHEM Scholarships by date required

• Transfer matching funds to GBHEM by date required

• Assist in monitoring and communicating recipients progress and status through ministry for up to five years


* Conferences and foundations can and often do work together to review their applicants. 

* Each funding partner provides separate award matches as separate partners for student support.

* Funding partners awards are sourced from their resources. Conferences often utilize MEF funds to award their Excellence recipients.

2024 Participating Annual Conferences and Foundations

Participating Annual Conference are an integral component of the success of this scholarship. Your support is valuable in making a difference in the lives of our students. 

Interested partners may contact Allyson Potts to talk with your boards of ordained ministry, cabinets, teams, or other committee members to communicate program logistics and the proven impact of this scholarship program to future clergy and the church.

Allyson Potts:  615-340-7343

  • California Nevada Annual Conference
  • Dakotas Methodist Foundation
  • Dakotas United Methodist Conference
  • Desert Southwest United Methodist Foundation
  • Florida Annual Conference
  • Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry
  • Holston Foundation
  • Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Iowa United Methodist Foundation
  • Methodist Foundation of Mississippi
  • Minnesota Annual Conference
  • Minnesota Methodist Foundation
  • Mississippi Annual Conference
  • Missouri Annual Conference
  • Missouri United Methodist Foundation
  • Mountain Sky Annual Conference
  • North Alabama Methodist Foundation
  • North Carolina Annual Conference
  • North Texas Annual Conference
  • Tennessee Western Kentucky United Methodist Foundation
  • United Methodist Foundation of Michigan
  • United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia, Inc
  • Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
  • Wespath’s Clergy Financial Well Being Initiative
  • West Virginia Annual Conference
  • Western North Carolina Annual Conference

2024 Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship Partner

 Funding Partner Agreement