Today, a majority of clergy and faith leaders revealed that inadequate salaries, lack of housing or housing allowances, minimal insurance coverage, under-funded pension plans, and the rising cost of student-loan debt created stress, which diverted clergy energy from ministry. Based on the results of these studies, Memphis Theological Seminary was one of 20 schools invited by the Lilly Endowment Foundation to participate in an initial pilot program to address the economic challenges facing future pastors in November 2012. John Wimmer, Director of Lilly’s Religious Division, stated at a recent planning of the participating schools in 2013 that this was a “pandemic issue,” so much so that an additional 50 schools have been invited to participate in the project.
After much research, planning, evaluation and study, MTS launched its pilot program in January 2014. The project was named Financial Leadership for Ministry. One of the primary goals of the project is to promote financial literacy among MTS students. Certain aspects of the program will be aimed at incoming Master of Divinity students, but all students as well as community pastors will be able to participate in various components of the program.
Highlights include a new, required course on financial literacy, student focus groups, workshops, webinars, free financial consultations with certified advisors for MTS students, forums on faith and money, media presentations, seminars and a conference for pastors and laypersons.
It is the hope of MTS administrators, faculty and staff that each graduate’s personal confidence in financial matters, along with the education and training received, will spill over into their congregational life and ministry.
The FLM Project consists of four primary components:
- Promoting financial literacy
- Decreasing current and future debt
- Development of a biblical and theological resource bank for current students, alumni and pastors in the community
- Engaging and educating key stakeholders about the challenges facing future ministers
The FLM Project promises creative and innovative ways of engaging students in dialogue and meaningful conversations around ministry and money. Special seminars and workshops will be sponsored over the life of the project, which will include guest speakers, financial consultants, tax planning experts, authors, theologians and practitioners in the faith community.
Financial Leadership for Ministry Steering Committee
Dr. Jay Earheart-Brown
President of MTS
Dr. Stan Wood Vice
President of Academic Affairs
Director of FLM
Dr. Carmichael Crutchfield
Assistant Professor of Christian Education &
Project Coordinator for Master of Art in Youth Ministry
Dr. Pete Gathje
Associate Dean of Curriculum & Instruction
Dr. Gail Robinson
Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness
Director of Alumni Affairs
Father John Stygles
Director of Financial Aid
Dr. Barry Anderson
Director of Student Services
Rev. Fekecia Gunn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, OK. She graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Memphis Theological Seminary with a certification in Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counseling in 2012.
She is currently the Youth Minister at St. Andrew AME Church in Memphis, TN under the leadership of Pastors, Rev. Dr. Byron C. Moore, MPC & Rev. Sharon D. Moore, MPC.
Rev. Fekecia Gunn also serves as the Director of Financial Leadership for Ministry at Memphis Theological Seminary. The grant funded program develops new strategies for decreasing financial burdens on seminary students as well as creates and strengthens educational programs in financial literacy for pastoral and faith leaders. Their mission is to “Empower Faith Leaders to Practice Financial Excellence.”
Lara Zieden grew up in Princeton, NJ, as the youngest daughter of two artists. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with a concentration in Religious Studies. She has a background in working with non-profits as well as experience as an office manager for an architectural company. She is thrilled about being with the MTS Community and is developing a growing love for Memphis daily