For those considering vocational ministry, the prospect of student debt can sometimes be daunting. The Wesleyan loan-grant Program – which allows qualified candidates to achieve loan forgiveness over a five-year period – is an example of how denominations and schools can alleviate the debt burden from emerging ministers, and bring theological education into reach for those previously concerned about debt-load.
The Wesleyan Church provides loan grant assistance to students enrolled in an approved ordination track at one of our approved schools or seminaries. This student aid program is available to juniors and seniors at Wesleyan schools, and those enrolled for graduate theological training up to the completion of a Master of Divinity degree program or its equivalent.
Administered by the Education and Clergy Development Division, the loan-grant process provides for the forgiveness of 20% of the balance of the loan for each year an approved pastor is in full-time vocational ministry.
“Every Wesleyan local church and every person through tithes and offerings makes the Wesleyan loan-grant possible,” said Dr. Aaron Perry, Director of Wesleyan Academic Initiatives. “Recipients are grateful for this program that removes barriers to ministerial education.”
In 2023, 42 pastors reached the “full-loan forgiveness” threshold, meaning they served the full 5 years of full-time ministry, resulting in the program contributing to a cumulative 210 ministry years.
“Every time the loan-grant came in, it came at a point when it was needed and a relief,” said Rev. Matthew Hooper, who reached the full forgiveness threshold this year. “The loan-grant was a big part of getting me to move forward at the Masters level. Even more that this loan is able to be paid off by just doing what God has called me to do is even more of a relief. There is no panic later on how will I pay this off, because that is already known and taken care of,” he continued.
This sentiment was echoed by many others, showcasing how the program’s tangible support also offered emotional relief, allowing them to become better-equipped for their calling without needing to worry about financial hurdles.
“Words cannot truly express all that the Lord has done in my ministry and my heart through my master’s experience!” reflected Rev. Rebecca Perry, a Wesley Seminary graduate. “I am so grateful for a denominational church family who is willing to help me have this experience!”
“Thank you so much for… helping me get my education through Kingswood University,” said Tanton Schnider, a current loan-grant recipient. “I would not be able to pursue any sort of education if it was not for support like this.”
For many recipients, the program’s flexibility and timing have been providential. It has allowed them to complete their studies without immediate financial worries, providing room to breathe as they transition into ministry roles. Rev. Evan Hoekzema’s experience exemplifies this: “The very same month I would have had to start paying back the Wesleyan loan-grant was the exact time I onboarded at a Wesleyan Church in the area and it started to be forgiven. Only God!”
All this work in the local church is supported by the ECD Staff, with Michelle Wood – who has long administered the loan-grant – taking the lead. Wood shared that her favorite part of the job is seeing how this kind of assistance allows people to proceed into their lives unburdened by excess debt. “I work with names a lot; seeing that there are people behind these names – getting the chance to say to people, ‘Thank you for your ministry, your loan is canceled in full,’ and feeling the release that comes from that debt being alleviated is really fulfilling,” said Wood.
The loan-grant is (ultimately) not just about financial aid; it’s about fulfilling a calling, fostering partnership, and clearing pathways for future ministers to step into their roles with less burdensome debt. As more stories roll in, and more students enroll in the loan grant, the program’s impact continues to grow as a strategy for sustainability in the ecosystem of ministerial formation.
For more information about the loan-grant program, visit https://www.wesleyan.org/ecd/loan-grant