Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2008

Fund Teaches Stewardship, Fiscal Education

by Allison K. Schmitt, '07 M.A.

Minus 16. It may sound like the temperature on a brisk Minnesota morning, but it's actually a much more chilling statistic: Negative 16 percent is the current savings rate of young adults ages 25 to 34, according to Share Save Spend, an organization dedicated to helping youth and adults develop and maintain healthy money habits. Couple that with substantial student loan debt and the need for financial education among pastors-to-be is clear.

The majority of Luther Seminary's recent Master of Divinity graduates fall within this negative savings demographic. Couple that with substantial student loan debt and the need for financial education among pastors-to-be is clear.

Financial education

That's why Luther Seminary created the Fund for Financial Leadership.  Made up of gifts totaling $1.25 million, which were matched by an anonymous couple and added to existing stewardship dollars, the $3 million fund makes possible a variety of financial education activities at the seminary. These activities are overseen by the Center for Stewardship Leaders, directed by Jerry Hoffman.

Student focus

While Center resources are available to a wide demographic, students are the main focus. The financial stewardship coaching program pairs students with coaches who encourage them to practice faithful financial stewardship. In the last academic year, 50 partnerships were made. Hoffman said the program has evolved from focusing on transactions such as budgets and credit cards to considering values and stories. 

Plans are underway to include a four-hour "Faith and Money at Luther" workshop for new students at orientation. The Center also seeks to integrate stewardship lessons into the seminary curriculum. Learning opportunities for interns include a short financial stewardship workshop and an annual stewardship sermon contest. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans also made a gift that will allow students to have the experience of managing endowments and making spending decisions.

Continuing education

The KAIROS course "Talk--Walk--Lead: Equipping Stewardship Leaders for the 21st Century Church" presents a biblical view of stewardship, and the Center's Web page offers a number of inspirational resources, including "Living in Abundance," lessons on generous living from Luther Seminary faculty members.  The Center offers a weekly e-mail newsletter on stewardship topics and a searchable database that can be accessed on the Web site Stewardship.  

Hoffman's work also includes interacting with the Stewardship for Life Institute in Gettysburg, Pa., the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in Indianapolis, Ind., and focus groups in local ELCA synods.