The STEWARD Program: Stewardship Thinking, Economic Wellbeing, and Reduction of Debt

The STEWARD program is a recent initiative at the School of Theology funded by the Lilly Endowment, which seeks to respond to the economic challenges facing seminary students through a program that combines curricular, extracurricular, and financial innovation. The purpose of the STEWARD program is to prepare seminary students and local religious leaders for wise financial management in their personal and professional lives within a theological framework of stewardship. The STEWARD Program endeavors to foster stewardship through research, financial literacy workshops, mentoring, and resources for job placement. The aim is to enhance personal and institutional stewardship, to guide students and other participants in wise financial planning, and to support vocational planning for post-seminary years. By collaborating with contextual education sites, with the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and with leaders in other judicatories, the program serves students and religious leaders in the Boston region, enhancing their ability to make informed decisions about finances and to be insightful, effective leaders in their communities.

The STEWARD project is anchored a research component, curricular initiatives, direct financial support, and student service initiatives. The research component includes a study of current STH students, STH alumni/ae, and best practices of other theological schools. The research investigates financial realities facing students and placement practices and opportunities. The curricular initiatives consist of a 1 credit course called “Stewarding a Legacy and a Promise” required of all incoming MDiv, MTS, and MSM students. The course provides an orientation to the legacy and resources of the School of Theology, a component on personal and institutional financial stewardship, and a component focused on critically engaging issues of diversity, power, and privilege. The direct financial support within the program consists of a funding strategy to support students in their often financially stressed contextual education year (typically the second year of the MDiv program). This funding strategy is a collaborative model with the contextual education sites where students are placed. The Student Service Initiatives will endeavor to expand and enhance STH’s career counseling and placement services and to pilot a one-on-one financial counseling program. In all of these efforts, we aim to equip religious leaders to be stewards of their lives and the communities that they lead.