Often when I talk to prospective students, they’re struggling. However, their struggle is not so much about the Graduate Theological Online Education (GTOE) programs at Northwest Nazarene University’s School of Theology & Christian Ministries.
They’re also not wrestling so much with God’s calling. Instead, it’s the financial challenge of a theological education. How will they pay for their studies? Is pursuing this degree a smart financial decision? Will it pay off in terms of job security?
I don’t want to minimize these concerns. They are very real. My oldest daughter is graduating from high school this spring, so paying for college is at the top of my family’s list, too.
But here is what I know: You really can trust God with all of your life. This isn’t an excuse for making unwise decisions or counting the cost. But when we step out in faith and answer God’s call—even in those moments when life doesn’t make sense—God has a way of showing up.
To be faithful requires that we be faith-full.
In very real ways, theological education is about faith development. Over and over as a faith leader, you’re going to be called upon to lead people through decisions that may not make sense on the front end. Learning how to do this in your own personal life—especially with respect to finances—is great training for when you’re leading others in the context of ministry.
While it’s definitely true that tuition was less expensive when I attended college and seminary, it felt just as expensive then as it does for students today. I remember wondering, “How am I going to pay for this?” With only a pencil and paper in hand, it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time.
But thanks to generous scholarship support, creative housing options, conservative spending choices, and juggling multiple jobs while in school, my wife and I made it. Occasionally a generous family at church would send us a little extra to help see us through, or an odd job resulted in a heftier paycheck than either of us expected.
My wife and I did it together—whatever we needed to do to get the job done. But we never saw any of that on the front end. The results only came through the journey. It took faith for us to take that first step—just as it will for you.
Again and again, I’ve seen students say “Yes” to God—even though they were unclear how they were going to pay for their studies. I’ve lost track of the number of GTOE students telling tales of money received from strangers, or an unforeseen job opportunity that helped these students pay for their education. None of these students had any idea what would happen on the front end.
I’ve also seen our students get creative about funding their educations. One young pastor asked his church board for a modest level of assistance from a professional development account he had never used. The board told this student they wanted him to have some “sweat equity” in his education by paying for his first semester. But then they shocked him with an ingeniously generous opportunity: For every A he earned, the church would reimburse him 100 percent for a corresponding course his second semester. If he earned a B, they would pay 75 percent; and a C was worth 50 percent. They kept that arrangement across the span of his master’s degree. The student was so motivated that he earned straight A’s all the way through! This pastor earned his degree by applying himself, and he thrived as his congregation supported his efforts. And his church benefited from the arrangement because their pastor’s horizons were expanded, which took their church to new levels, too.
The adage is true: Where there is a will, there are a thousand ways.
We’re doing everything possible here at NNU to make our Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degrees affordable. Compared with the tuition paid by our on-campus undergraduates, NNU’s graduate tuition is significantly discounted already. We also offer clergy discounts for assigned Nazarene ministers serving on NNU’s educational region. Our University Advancement office continues to solicit other scholarship opportunities, especially for students who are headed to pastoral or cross-cultural ministry.
Of course, federal financial aid is also available for those who qualify. And because theological education is at the heart of NNU’s mission, our university offers zero-interest monthly payment plans for our Master of Divinity and Master of Arts students.
So if God is calling you, I encourage you to take the leap of faith. You can’t hope to lead others to live faith-filled lives without developing your own muscles of trust.
Take the first step: Request more information – and then let’s journey together to see what God wants to accomplish through you.
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