The Association for Theological Schools (ATS) has awarded Bethany Theological Seminary and four partner schools a $20,000 Peer Group Grant to support the schools’ efforts to minimize the financial cost of obtaining a seminary education.
A proposal request for the grant was made available by ATS to schools that have already received grant funds from Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of its Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. Bethany was awarded Lilly grants as part of this initiative in 2013 and 2017 and has used these funds to develop its Pillars and Pathways program, which helps students minimize debt and develop good financial stewardship.
Courtney Hess, grant project director for Bethany, wrote and submitted the proposal for the Peer Group Grant to ATS. “I was interested in learning from other seminaries that had created strategies to help students get through school with little or no additional debt. The idea started during a conversation at an ATS conference with a colleague from Duke Divinity School. When I decided to apply, I put a message on the ATS listserv for schools participating in the Lilly Endowment Inc. initiative to see if there were interested parties. The group came together that way.”
The schools joining Bethany, lead seminary on the project, are theologically diverse: Duke Divinity School, North Park Theological Seminary, Sioux Falls Seminary, and Lexington Theological Seminary. The ATS grant funds will be used for (1) a one-day conference to share and brainstorm ways the schools can improve their programs and (2) an opportunity for faculty, administrators, and participating students to meet and do similar brainstorming.
The one-day conference will be open to additional schools that learn about the project and wish to participate. Hess will be overseeing the day’s conversation, which will begin with introductions of each school’s program. The participants expect to also discuss topics such as how to improve current efforts, elements that are sustainable and can be replicated by other seminaries, the impact of efforts on students and the institutions, and next steps for the group. A summary of key findings from the conference will be made available to ATS and interested seminaries.
Bethany’s Pillars and Pathways program helps all students reduce or avoid additional debt and increase financial knowledge and fiscal stewardship skills. The Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship, launched in fall 2017, offers additional aid and free housing to students who maintain eligibility for academic scholarship aid, perform community service, commit to community living in the Bethany Neighborhood, and do not incur additional educational and consumer debt.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J. K. Jr.—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at