The ELCA Churchwide Assembly established the Fund for Leaders in 1997 and provided its first scholarships in 2000. Today, more than a thousand people have benefited from the program, with over $25 million in scholarships awarded over 21 years. Ultimately, ELCA Fund for Leaders hopes to provide full-tuition support for every ministry candidate attending an ELCA seminary.
Our alumni currently serve congregations and organizations across the ELCA and around the world. These pastors and deacons were able to accept calls where they were needed most, free from the burden of repaying student loans.
Excellent leaders positively impact the whole church. The ELCA Fund for Leaders is our commitment that these leaders should be supported in their call to follow a vocation of service to this church and the world. Like any successful organization, the church depends on the very best leaders to guide us into the future, and the ELCA Fund for Leaders helps these outstanding leaders answer the call.
As of Dec. 31, 2020, ELCA Fund for Leaders endowment funds exceeded $75 million, providing full-tuition scholarships as well as mission developer, federal chaplaincy ministry, synod and congregational scholarships. Two of our seven seminaries have committed to providing full-tuition scholarships to all enrolled ELCA candidates for ministry. When a student receives one of these full-tuition scholarships, it frees up seminary resources for other students. Both seminaries also provide additional grant money to Fund for Leader recipients to pay for other academic costs, up to $7,500 annually, depending on need, location and other factors.
For the 2021-2022 academic year, a Fund for Leaders full-tuition scholarship has a standardized value of $19,000 per year for all recipients. The result is a total scholarship value of $57,000 for Master of Divinity students and $38,000 for Master of Arts students over the course of their seminary studies, all in partnership with our ELCA seminaries. Each seminary has committed to make up any difference between their actual tuition cost and the amount of our scholarship. Schools whose tuition costs less than the amount of our scholarship award will apply any difference toward other costs, such as books and fees. We periodically adjust the value of our full-tuition scholarships.
By special arrangement with the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program, applicants awarded a full-tuition scholarship by the Fund for Leaders may defer the scholarship for one full year to participate in the YAGM program (thisbegan with the 2021-22 academic year). This YAGM deferral option guarantees that the applicant will receive their Fund for Leaders scholarship after completing their YAGM year.
Photo by Will Nunnally