Many people preparing for United Methodist ordination are daunted by the high price tag associated with their education, and mounting debt can be a barrier to answering God’s call to serve. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, is continuing a proven scholarship and financial literacy program that not only eases the burden of educational debt for prospective clergy, but also helps them plot a stable financial future.
Working with Wespath Benefits and Investments, United Methodist annual conferences and foundations, and the 13 United Methodist seminaries and schools of theology, GBHEM is proud to renew the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship for the third year in a row. The project is funded in part by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.
The scholarship is designed to help entering United Methodist clergy avoid excessive educational loan debt, minimize financial stress and build financial acumen. In addition to receiving direct funding, scholarship awardees also must complete a financial wellness curriculum offered through EY Financial Planning Services. The training teaches long-term financial planning tactics, including ways to avoid debt and prepare for retirement.
“The financial literacy program has helped me particularly in regard to just talking about financial plans,” said Ian Bailey, a scholarship recipient and master of divinity student at Duke Divinity School. “My wife and I discuss finances frequently but getting a third party involved is always a blessing. Working with EY has helped my family to strategically construct a map for our financial goals. Just as well-thought-out travel plans aid us in enjoying ourselves in new places, the financial advisers provided for through the scholarship aid seminary students in enjoying the fruit of good stewardship.”
In a recent GBHEM study of recipients like Bailey, more than 90 percent reported that the scholarship had eased the financial burden of their educational pursuits and reduced their overall education debt. Participants’ responses indicate that collectively, they avoided $760,000 in additional debt that they would have incurred without the required financial wellness training.
These positive outcomes benefit not only individual clergy but the church as a whole. Many previous scholarship recipients reported that lowering their debt and increasing their financial literacy helped them to focus on their ministry.
GBHEM is now accepting applications for the 2019 scholarships. Applicants must be full-time master of divinity students attending one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries or schools of theology. They must also be certified candidates or pursuing certified candidacy for ministry (elder or deacon) in The United Methodist Church. Awards are based on merit, leadership capacity and financial need.
The application deadline is March 7. Individual award amounts range from $2,500 to $12,500 and recipients will be notified by July 2019. Applicants must create an account through International Tuition and Scholarship Services, Inc. Directions for account creation and application submission are available here.
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.