It’s a story I hear over and again…
“I can’t begin to tell you how much my student loans are killing me.”
“I have to leave my church position because I don’t make enough to pay my student loan bill.”
“I’d love to get more ministry training, but I can’t because I haven’t gotten close to paying off my first degree.”
What if your church could change a significant challenge for many pastors and staff members who serve your congregation and show how much you appreciate what they do?
Why don’t you invest in your pastor?
Bless them by paying their student loans!
No. I’m not feeling the Bern. But student loans are killing our pastors and staff more than you know.
Employers around the US are discovering that to attract the best talent and keep that talent working for the good of the company, student loan repayment programs can be a huge draw. CNN Money did a great article on how companies like PwC will give students up to $1,000 a year for up to 6 years of employment. Others give lump sum payoffs based on tenure. Even states like Kansas know the value of this by offering Rural Opportunity Zones.
You may be thinking, “My company doesn’t offer that benefit” or “I think they should have to work it off themselves.” You might be correct, but let’s do some simple math:
By the standards most search committees set for their pastor searches, a young pastor in his 20s or 30s may be carrying $30,000-$60,000 in student loans as they come to your church. This burden is distracting in the least and financially cataclysmic for others.
A Recommendation for Churches:
Here’s my recommendation for churches to invest in the best candidates knowing that such an arrangement benefits your congregation:
Help your pastor or staff member understand the beauty of debt-free living! You can make a difference in the life of the pastor who invests so deeply in your life and your community!
 Our tuition for residential students at MBTS who are members of Southern Baptist Churches is less than $20,000 total cost thanks to the generosity of the members of SBC churches contributing to the Cooperative Program! http://www.mbts.edu/news-resources/current-students/tuition-and-fees/ Programs at elite Evangelical schools like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School are in excess of $61,000 for program’s total tuition cost. http://divinity.tiu.edu/admissions-financial-aid/tuition-fees/ Neither of these dollar amounts account for books, program fees or living costs.
 According to the Institute for College Access and Success, 7 in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower. http://ticas.org/posd/map-state-data-2015
“Cheer up Church. You’re worse off than you think.”
These poignant lyrics from singer/songwriter Charlie Peacock echoed in my mind this morning as I read the news. From crazy election results, to sin proudly on display, one cannot escape the seemingly relentless movement of hearts turned away from God.
The only answer to this horrible situation is the grace of God.
Asked to explain the lyrics of the song, Peacock wrote, “The truth is… I am worse off than I think or know. It is amazing that God knows the extent of my rebellion against Him (even if I really don't) and He still loves me and pursues me and is committed to making me like his Son Jesus. When I take this to heart a smile appears on my face. I cheer up.” Our lives are not dominated by circumstances, but rather the reality of God’s grace poured out on our life.
This worked itself out lyrically in the song, “Cheer Up, Church”
“It's just like God to make a hero from a sinner
It's just like God to choose the loser not the winner
It's just like God to tell a story through the weak
To let the Gospel speak through the life of a man
Who'll be the first to say,
‘Cheer up, Church
You're worse off than you think
Cheer up, Church
You're standing at the brink
Don't despair, do not fear, Grace is near’"
As Evangelical Christianity continues to move to the outer boundaries of the culture, this is an opportunity for us to remember our might is not in politics nor in cultural prowess. It’s in the Gospel.
Cheer up, church! It’s worse than you think! But the Gospel never changes and Jesus is still on the throne. His grace is always near.
Listen to the song on Spotify
Listen to the song on Youtube
 When Peacock wrote the lyrics for this song, he was remembering the life of a friend, Jack Miller, former pastor and a professor at Westminster Seminary. “Cheer up, you are worse off than you think,” was a perpetual reminder Dr. Miller gave to believers. http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/music/ask-charlie-cheer-up-church-youre-worse-off-than-you-think-541044.html
John Mark Yeats