During this Thanksgiving season, I have been reflecting on people who made my seminary education possible. They invested much in shaping me for future ministry leadership.
Just before we moved to seminary, a family invited us to their home for lunch. They were a modest-income family facing the financial challenges of two sons leaving soon for college. After lunch, with the family still seated together, the husband/father said something like this, “Jeff, we believe in you and the impact you will make as a ministry leader. We have made a family decision. We are going to pay your seminary tuition.” We were shocked, humbled, and amazed God (and this special family) would provide for us this way.
The following night, my extended family had a going-away dinner for us. Most of my family were not Christians, and certainly not church-going, minister-supporting people. Wanting to give a witness of God’s provision, I told them about the family who had committed to paying for our seminary tuition and jokingly added, “All I have to pay for are the books.”
When the dinner ended, my uncle pulled us aside and said, “Send me that book bill.” Again, we were shocked and amazed. A man who never darkened the door of a church (along with his wife, my aunt) paid for all my books while I was in seminary. He believed in me, valued my future as a ministry leader, and wanted to help train me for the task.
These two families invested in my future. They were instrumental in training me, but also in laying a foundation for future training that resulted in the credentials which qualified me to serve as a seminary president. Forty years ago, none of us knew that was in my future, but God did. He provided resources to accomplish his purposes.
The primary reason prospective students and current students do not attend seminary is financial pressure. They simply do not have the money to pay for seminary. They are not living frivolously, but are struggling to pay rent, groceries, and the expenses of childrearing. As economic pressure mounts, something has to give. All too often it is paying for seminary.
You can make a difference. If you know a seminary student you believe will make a significant impact in the future, find a way to help them pay for seminary. Contact their seminary directly to discover ways to do this. And, if you are not able to pay the whole bill, consider asking your church to provide tuition support for students from your church.
I am thankful today for two families who paid for my Master of Divinity degree. But there is more to the story. Tune in next week!
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