Lilly Endowment Awards Significant Grant to North Park Theological Seminary

Jan 24, 2013, 12:47 ET from North Park University

CHICAGO, Jan. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- North Park Theological Seminary recently was awarded a three-year, $250,000 grant by Lilly Endowment Inc., Indianapolis, to address ways to reduce burdens of student educational debt, to develop financial education programs, and to explore creative ideas to finance theological education.

The Seminary was one of 16 seminaries nationwide awarded grants in Lilly Endowment's pilot program, the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers. The aim of the initiative is to help theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational strategies and practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastoral leaders. North Park Theological Seminary is the graduate theological school of North Park University and the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

"An emphasis on holistic health already exists in the Seminary curriculum, but we sincerely believe that it must include a financial literacy component," wrote the Rev. David Kersten, seminary dean, in the Seminary's application. In addition, offering financial literacy skills training seeks to give prospective students confidence to move forward with their educations, Kersten said. Initial work with the grant funds will start in early 2013.

The Seminary plans to begin by learning more about students and graduates, and how finances affect their lives, Kersten said. With that information, the Seminary will use the Lilly Endowment grant for three purposes:

  • To develop a proactive approach to reduce the burden of student educational debt, and explore curricular possibilities in particular
  • To educate and better prepare ministers to be leaders and managers of personal, family and congregational finances throughout their pastoral careers
  • To engage key partners to share ideas and re-think ways in which theological education should be financed

High educational debt is a serious problem for seminary students across many denominations, Kersten said. Professional church leaders often don't have the earning capacity of other professions, limiting their ability to pay educational loans. Personal debt and lack of financial knowledge also affects their ability to serve effectively in congregations, church-related organizations or nonprofits, he said. In some cases, experienced and respected pastors facing personal economic crises leave the vocation, Kersten added.

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SOURCE North Park University