YDS awarded grant to improve the economic well-being of future ministers

NEW HAVEN – Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Yale Divinity School a $250,000 grant as part of its Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers.

Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to address recent research indicating that student educational debt in excess of $30,000 is not uncommon for seminary graduates, and some students are graduating from seminary with loans of more than $100,000. The financial pressures caused by these debt levels severely limit the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermine the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders.

"Students do not come to Divinity School for financial reasons; we do not want financial reasons to dictate their future,” said Dean Gregory Sterling. “We are working to make it possible for students to pursue their calling." The program will enhance YDS’s long-term commitments to robust financial aid for students and ongoing engagement of alumni called to pastoral ministry.

The centerpiece of the YDS program will be a far-reaching survey to determine the full debt load of current students and graduates, including consumer debt, and how debt affects their life and work. Three focus groups—current students, pastors, and graduates in other professions—will examine the data and offer insights and recommendations based on personal experiences.

As part of the program, YDS will also develop several financial resources including an interactive website, mini-seminars on financial planning, and a semester-long course combining the themes of faith, money and theology. A team of experts will be commissioned to produce a digital handbook on ethical, spiritual and economic practices for living just and sustainable lifestyles.

YDS is among 51 theological schools who were awarded over $12.3 million in grants. “Theological schools are uniquely positioned to address the educational debt issue and to lead broad efforts to improve the financial circumstances facing pastoral leaders,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice-president for religion. “Our hope is that these grants will help them build relationships with church organizations and others to lessen the debt burden and increase support for future ministers.”

ATS will monitor the progress of each program, convene project leaders and stakeholders to share insights with one another, and organize working groups to explore specific challenges faced by the theological schools in implementing their programs.

A press release from Lilly Endowment, Inc. is available at the following link. http://www.lillyendowment.org/pdf/HelpingTheologicalSchools.pdf

Yale Divinity School press contact:
Jared Gilbert
jared.gilbert@yale.edu / (203) 436-8379 

Date Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 6:15pm