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Laura Bryan
(800) 728-7228, x5735
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100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202

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Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance Turns Two and Celebrates Big Success for Small Churches

By Toni Montgomery

The average seminary student finds themselves with about $44,000 in student debt by the time they graduate. On the other side of the coin, the biggest need for these graduates lies not in the large churches, but in the small and emerging churches, the ones with budgets that don’t always allow for full-time pastors. Indeed, many of these pastoral candidates have a preference for serving these small and emerging congregations.  So how do we reconcile the obligations of the young graduate carrying education debt with the budget constraints of the congregations that need them the most? 

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Financial Aid for Service office has been working hard with national staff responding to the 1,001 initiative and transformational leadership goals to develop financial tools to help students of all kinds within the church.  Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance (TLDA) was developed precisely with these future church leaders in mind.

In order to qualify for TLDA, applicants must be a MDiv graduate and PC(USA) teaching elder and must be serving a PC(USA) congregation with 150 members or less or a new emerging worshiping community.  The call must be a part-time installed position or a full or part-time temporary position.  The award ranges from $3000 to $5000.

TLDA is essentially still a loan. The amount borrowed is paid directly to the borrower’s student loan servicer toward the principal balance of their education loans. After 18 months of service in the qualifying position, the TLDA loan is forgiven and the candidate may apply again. It’s renewable up to three times, up to a maximum benefit of $15,000.

The TLDA loan is actually worth more than the face value, because it is paid on the principal of the borrower’s loans, so it not only repays that amount, but also any future interest the borrower would have paid on the original loan.

TLDA was conceived three years ago and has been up and running for two. A total of $163,000 has been spent and the first group of participants achieved forgiveness early this year.  Bryan says 40 pastors have been served by the program, impacting 45 churches and worshiping communities.  She also notes that this program, with its criteria fitting part-time positions, is an ideal fit for bi-vocational pastors. Three of those served work in positions related to education in addition to their ministry rolls.  

TLDA and the other programs offered by the Financial Aid for Service office and Board of Pensions make it possible for people with a passion and calling to ministry to see that dream become reality in spite of the financial challenges they face. Bryan says there are 30 TLDA awards remaining for 2013. Information and applications can be found here.

Terima Kasih

by Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke

Looking back on my graduation from seminary almost two years ago, I recognize more than ever the palpable and important place of financial aid and my gratitude for the financial assistance I have received from the Presbyterian Church (USA).

I went to a Presbyterian college in North Carolina knowing that, although my parents were there to help me in case of emergencies, I was going to pay my way. I entered seminary with the same knowledge. The problem has been that I haven’t necessarily been drawn towards the moneymaking professions, as you might well imagine. Furthermore, with my husband being a native of Indonesia and both of us committed to mission commitments in our home there, money has often been an important thing—what we’ve needed to pay back educational loans or to fly to Indonesia to see family and do ministry there--- and yet when your family is made up of two MDiv graduates, as you might have guessed, you’re rarely rolling in money. This will likely become an even greater reality for us this coming fall, as we anticipate welcoming one more into our family!

Truly, the financial assistance provided by my denomination, PC (USA), has made a vast difference. Over the past two years, I have been serving two churches in a small town setting in West Virginia through the “For Such a Time as This” pastoral residency program. I love my work, my calling, and I wouldn’t trade being a pastor in a small church for the world! The financial aid office, however, recognizes the special needs of those of us serving in small churches and/or part-time assignments. And I believe through such programs as the Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance program, I have been able to engage in my vocation while not having to worry about money every step of the way. Furthermore, the presence of these programs reminds me of what I learned at a recent Stewardship Conference: That God is generous, and when we follow in God’s footsteps, we are blessed and also able to bless others. Blessed to be a blessing! These programs are invaluable for the future of our church—in all of its diversity!

Likewise, the financial assistance I received as a seminary student was incredibly important. Even though one semester, I had three jobs serving as a campus Chapel Assistant, youth pastor at a nearby church, and a youth program coordinator with another church-- without the assistance from the Presbyterian Study Grant, I would have left seminary with an even greater amount of debt. When I graduated two years ago, I felt confident to pursue God’s call for me and wasn’t hindered by unnecessary constraints that the burden of additional debt could have placed.

Thank you PC (USA) and thank you to everyone who supports these important programs! This is a kind of investment, a soul-work investment, which is worth more than words can express. Nonetheless, these investments suggest to me that our denomination values the needs and commitments of its pastors, and that we are all passionate about serving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength! Thank you. Terima Kasih.

Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke is a graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary and a teaching elder in the Presbytery of West Virginia who has found TLDA and other PC(USA) financial assistance critical in realizing her ministry goals. Terima Kasih means thank you in Bahasa Indonesia.


The financial aid programs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are to help make undergraduate and graduate studies possible.

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