In 2012, 69% of new college graduates had taken on student loans to cover their education cost. The average debt was double the amount of graduates 20 years ago. Pew Research reported that even among students of high-income families, the percent of students using loans to finance their education had significantly increased.
It is unfortunate that student loan debt is so common. It is weight that slows the launch of many new careers. And it is no different with aspiring ministers. Those who feel called to ministry should carefully consider potential consequences of taking on a significant debt load to cover their education. If you are an aspiring minister, here are some reasons to avoid student loan debt:
1. You will be more tempted to base vocational decisions on money.
Even without debt payments, you will be tempted to seek employment with certain ministries because you know that they can pay you more than other ministries. With student loan debt, this temptation will increase. You may find yourself in a position where you are turning down an opportunity to work with a ministry that meets your heart’s desire and, instead, work for a ministry that you can afford.
2. You may have to work additional jobs.
Bi-vocational ministry is often a necessity and is used by God in tremendous ways. However, it is unfortunate when a minister must consider outside work, not because the context demands it, but because of a debt load.
3. You may have to delay ministry employment.
For some, student debt even precludes bi-vocational ministry. The debt is too large, and the payments are too high. You may find yourself serving a ministry, but only outside your regular work hours. Your regular work hours are dedicated to a job that allows you to pay down your debt.
4. The weight of the debt will impact your family life.
Your family will feel the tension created by debt. There is financial strain and emotional strain. The latter is less discussed. When you are unable to pursue your calling due to debt, you will find yourself in moments of frustration. And when you are frustrated or stressed, your family will feel it as well.
5. Supposed financial “quick fixes” will be considered.
As frustration and stress increases, you will be tempted to look for “quick fixes.” Be careful. There are many bad ideas out there. There are no “quick fixes’ with debt. Repayment always takes sacrifice. Pursuing an easy way out will only put you in greater financial turmoil.
6. You may never fulfill your sense of calling.
There will be some aspiring ministers that decide to postpone the pursuit of their calling and never return to that chase. After spending several years in another line of work, they convince themselves that it is too late for them. They push aside their calling and continue on a different career path, never knowing what could have been.
If you are an aspiring minister, carefully consider student loan debt. On the front end, it is easy to attain. On the back end, repayment may take longer than you anticipated and create a greater burden than you ever expected. If you must take out a loan, create a plan to pay it off quickly. Your future ministerial career will thank you.