By Blair Lundborg
Our ELCA seminaries are doing a great job of preparing pastors and deacons for the changing landscape of the ministry. All of our seminaries have been through major curriculum revisions to help better prepare our future leaders. The Lutheran Church has a long history of providing well trained and educated leaders for ministry. But it’s not cheap.
Before our pastors or deacons begin seminary, they must first complete an undergraduate degree. The cost of a college education has outpaced inflation by 2.5 times in the past twenty years. Many of our candidates for ministry are carrying significant undergraduate debt into their seminary education. A recent study by US News & World Report outlined the trends of the past 20 years.
Over 80% of ELCA seminary graduates carry educational debt into their first call. The typical debt for an ELCA seminary graduate is between $50,000 and $75,000.
There are many explanations about how and why educational debt has skyrocketed in the past 20-30 years. That is beyond the scope of this brief article. Instead, let’s look at what the Church is doing about it and how you and your congregation can help.
The Gulf Coast Synod takes the matter of student debt seriously. The Live On Endowment has named seminary scholarships as the primary goal for annual financial support. For the past several years the Live On Endowment has distributed up to $40,000 annually in scholarships for our seminarians in candidacy. The number of students entering candidacy has grown. So has the cost of their education and their financial need. The Live On Endowment is on track to invest $60,000 in scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year.
In order to keep up with the blessing of welcoming new candidates into ministry, and the rising cost of educational debt, we need your help. The best way we can maximize our financial support of seminarians is to help Live On grow the endowment.
Many congregations have a special scholarship fund set aside for daughters and sons of the congregation who may enter the ministry. Some of these funds have not been utilized in many years. Can you imagine the impact of pooling these various congregational scholarships in the Live On endowment? This year’s Live On scholarships averaged between $8,000-10,000 annually. Many congregations are not able to provide that much financial support. We are stronger together. By pooling our resources in the Live On endowment we have greater capacity.
Here’s the challenge. If your congregation has a scholarship fund lying dormant consider moving those funds to Live On. Here’s the promise- when a son or daughter from your congregation feels the call to ministry, Live On and the Candidacy Committee will make every effort to financially support your student.