Bethany Seminary has received a grant of $249,954 as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. Bethany is one of sixty-seven theological schools across the country to receive this funding.
Personal financial pressures are severely limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders. To help address this issue, Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. The initiative’s aim is to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors. All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada were invited to submit grant proposals.
Bethany outlined three goals in its proposal to help future pastors incorporate sound stewardship principles into their own lives and to lead individuals, families, and congregations toward building lives of stewardship: (1) identify the financial concerns of its current students and graduates, (2) respond to these concerns with intentional programming that will increase financial literacy as well as stewardship in all areas of life, and (3) facilitate conversation, both within the Seminary and throughout the denomination, about financial stewardship.
Of the three, implementing programming for financial literacy and stewardship has the most complexity and is the core of the proposal. To help students minimize debt while in seminary, ideas and resources for simple living, seeking outside employment, and securing outside funding will be made available. The reality and viability of bivocational ministry will also be intentionally addressed with students.
Building financial literacy for the long term will involve educating faculty and staff about the nature of debt and financial management in the lives of today’s young adults. Next practical steps will include increased emphasis on stewardship in the curriculum and new venues—both media and interpersonal—for incorporating best practices into student life. The results of all these initiatives will be of value to alumni/ae and others outside Bethany, and the Seminary plans to collaborate and communicate in ways that benefit the denomination as a whole.
Jeff Carter, president of Bethany, expressed the Seminary’s concern for the well-being of students who are carrying unprecedented financial debt. “Bethany is poised to engage the financial concerns of students and graduates, examine and promote practices leading to healthy and life-giving financial stewardship, and reach beyond the seminary classroom to engage a church and culture challenged by financial pressures. We are blessed with faithful and conscientious students who we seek to equip and empower as they go forth to serve this present age.”
“Pastors are indispensable spiritual leaders and guides, and the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment.
“Theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors and are uniquely positioned to address some of the economic challenges they face,” Coble said. “The Endowment hopes that these grants will support broad efforts to improve the financial circumstances facing pastoral leaders so that pastors can serve their congregations more joyfully and effectively,” said Coble.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons J. K. Jr. and Eli—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.