Suggestions for Support of Seminary Students
Students preparing for pastoral ministry benefit greatly from personal, financial and prayer support of brothers and sisters of their home church and community.
To help you stay connected with students, we have provided the following suggestions for ways that you or your congregation might support your students preparing for ministry.
Sponsor a Service of Blessing (farewell)
Give the student an opportunity to share with the congregation his/her call and plans for study. This would also be a good time for the congregation to offer its encouragement and to give a special love offering.
Give personal affirmation
Personal expressions of support mean a good deal to students. For example, send a card or e-mail voicing your affirmation for the student’s sense of call or willingness to serve the church. Or, give a gift that serves as a reminder of your friendship and support.
Offer prayer support
We will be delighted to develop a prayer partnership between your congregation and the student or the broader seminary. This partnership could be reviewed or renewed at the end of each year. Daily prayer support is a tremendous source of encouragement.
Visit or write letters to them
Some members come to visit students. Others help sponsor their pastor to visit and become acquainted with the seminary, perhaps for special programs such as the School for Leadership Training. Some congregations send weekly copies of their church bulletins, accompanied by personal letters from volunteers. Others make phone calls or send an e-mail once a week. These personal touches can be a great encouragement to persons away from home.
Offer a living allowance
Some congregations assist seminary students with living expenses. This allows the student to study full time. This help is especially important when the student has a family to support.
Pay part or all of their tuition
Some congregations pick up part or all of the tuition expenses for their students
Provide financial counseling
In the last decade, the percentage of students who have educational debt, as well as the average amount of that debt, has increased dramatically. Those who pursue theological education and ministry should be fully aware of the financial costs of education and of the economic realities of professions in ministry.
Work intensively with the student in seeking gifts and grants for tuition from friends, family, churches, denominations and other sources. Help students build and understand a realistic expenditure budget. Assist both student and spouse in finding employment.
Provide matching funds
If your congregation gives $1,000 towards the student’s expenses, the seminary will match this with $1,000. For each dollar contributed in addition to the $1,000, the seminary will provide an additional 25¢ per dollar in matching funds. Students must be admitted and enrolled at least half-time (5 or more credits per semester.)
Also, if your congregation has a Mennonite Mutual Aid representative, MMA may match a congregation’s gift of up to $1,000*.
And, if your congregation assists in paying health insurance, MMA may also match that grant by giving an additional $1,000 per year. [Some restrictions apply; contact your MMA representative for details]
Pay for particular expenses
For example, you might consider a book allowance, babysitting assistance, or expenses for a trip home during the holidays.
Develop your own creative ideas
Think of creative ways to demonstrate your own support or advocacy for the student. We may even pass them along for others to consider.