The Pastoral Debt Crisis

At Reformed Theological Seminary, 87% of our students graduate without loan debt.

At RTS, over 88% of our students receive a scholarship to pay for seminary. This gives our graduates the financial freedom to follow the Lord wherever he might call them. Five years after graduation, 91% of our graduates are still in ministry! This blows the national average out of the water. And it’s faithful supporters who make the difference by giving for student scholarships.

 

This month, thousands of men and women will walk across a stage and graduate from seminaries all over America. These students will have spent three or more years, often at a significant personal cost, to become shaped and prepared for ministry. They’ve decided to devote their lives to the spread of the gospel.

But within five years of graduation, nearly a third of them will call it quits, and start looking for better-paying jobs. Why? Much of the blame for this astonishing attrition rate lies with an unlikely suspect: debt—educational debt in particular.

Within five years of graduation, nearly 1/3 of graduates begin looking for better-paying jobs.

Student loans for seminary students have skyrocketed in recent years, and when combined with undergraduate debt it’s not unusual for seminary students to walk across the stage owing eighty to one hundred thousand dollars! Sadly, one in four seminary graduates has this kind of student debt.

While such high amounts of educational debt may be manageable in some professions, it can cause significant hardship for those in ministry. Few of these seminary grads will land well-paying positions in large, established churches. And smaller churches can’t afford more generous salaries to help them pay off their debt. Consequently, many seminary graduates are strapped with debt and smaller churches suffer from a real shortage of trained workers.

By the way, the same situation is faced by those preparing for world missions. Most missions agencies will not accept applicants with large outstanding educational debt.

It’s no wonder that so many seminary graduates grow discouraged and give up altogether on vocational Christian service. While we’re glad to have them in the marketplace, they are so badly needed in pulpits and other ministries around the world. So, there is a pastoral debt crisis. You could say that student debt is a silent killer of the Christian workers our world so desperately needs right now.

87% of RTS Students graduate without loan debt.

I’m grateful that the story is different here at RTS. At Reformed Theological Seminary, 87% of our students graduate without loan debt. In the past five years, only a handful of our students have graduated with more than forty thousand dollars in educational debt.

This is made possible because of the financial provision of the Lord’s people. We have a church partnership program in which a student’s home church helps them through seminary. We also have a very small but faithful group of donors who give generously to provide for student scholarships. This faithful group of supporters knows that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the news our world so desperately needs. They believe that supporting future pastors and Christian workers is the best investment they could ever make. All this helps pave the way for our students to graduate debt-free and ready to launch into lifetimes of ministry.

88% of RTS students receive a scholarship to pay for seminary.

At RTS, over 88% of our students receive a scholarship to pay for seminary. This gives our graduates the financial freedom to follow the Lord wherever he might call them. Five years after graduation, 91% of our graduates are still in ministry! This blows the national average out of the water. And it’s faithful supporters who make the difference by giving for student scholarships.

I care about preparing the next generation to serve the Lord because I care about who will shepherd my children and their children. Ask yourself: will it matter who trains your grandchild’s pastor? You bet it will. Long after I’m gone, I want them to be shepherded by people who love the Lord and his Word. That’s why I’ve decided to devote this season of my life to nurturing these young students and giving them everything they need as they launch into a lifetime of ministry. I want to leave a lasting legacy.

A few years ago, there was a study done of 95-year-olds in America. They were asked this question: “if you could do it over again what would you do differently?” Their answer was quite revealing. Three things stood out. First, they said, they would reflect more. Second, they said, that would risk more. And third, they said, they would strive to leave a legacy of impact!

91% of RTS graduates are still in ministry five years after graduation.

Our financial partners are building up the next generation, freeing men and women to focus on serving the Lord instead of serving a lender. Will you join us in this vital ministry? Visithttp://www.rts.edu/site/giving/index.aspx to learn more about how your contributions can make a real, lasting difference.

Dr. Don Sweeting is the president of the Orlando Campus of Reformed Theological Seminary and professor of church history.  He is an ordained minister of the word in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).  This article is taken from his blog and is used with permission.