What We Know About Clergy Financial Challenges

As part of the ongoing work of the Money & Ministry Program funded by the Lilly Endowment, Central sent a team of six leaders to the Lilly Endowment’s First Fruits Gathering on January 16-18. While we were there, we had opportunity to share what we’ve learned over the last 5+ years in our efforts to address the economic challenges of our students.

What We Know About Central Students

  • They are financially literate based on national standards.
  • They worry about their finances in spite of having financial knowledge.
  • They are more likely to address financial challenges and stress through changes in beliefs and behavior by working with a coach or in a formation group.

At this significant gathering Dr. Marshall served on a panel discussion highlighting the financial landscape of theological education, and Angela Jackson led a workshop in partnership with Sara Day of MMBB Financial Services to talk about “courage to change the narrative: money stories we were told and money stories were are telling.” We joined nearly 700 leaders from theological education, congregations, denominations, pastors, financial experts, and judicatories to dialogue and share the learnings from our projects and programs designed to address the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM). Much of what was shared is featured in this article, and the BIG 5 are listed below. Check it out, and join our efforts to eliminate these challenges for our students and your future ministers. Contact Angela Barker Jackson to learn how you can be a partner in the ECFFM work (angela.jackson@cbts.edu).

5 Things Religious Leaders Should Know

1. Educational debt keeps mounting.

43% of students bring undergraduate debt with them (an average of $32,600), and 49% borrow more to fund their graduate theological education (an average of $35,700).

2. It’s difficult to shake the burden of debt.

While 59% of students graduate with a debt burden averaging $44,500, the average salary they can expect in their first five years is just $47,500.

3. The consequences of debt follow students well into their careers.

In the first five years after graduation, for instance, 38% of alums take an extra job, 19% postpone healthcare, and 50% have little to no retirement savings.

4. The ECFFM initiative is having a positive impact.

During the first three years alone, 77% of participating schools saw a decrease in the number of borrowers or the amount of educational debt.

5. Schools that partner with denominations are more apt to succeed in lowering debt.

45% of the ECFFM schools that have partnered with denominations have seen average debt incurred decrease by $2,500 or more in the first three years.

Visit the ECFFM pages on the ats website, www.ats.edu, or email Jo Ann Deasy at deasy@ats.edu to learn more.

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