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Newly graduated seminary students face a daunting task: to bring a hurting world to a restorative relationship with Christ, while encouraging growth along the spiritual journey. Combine the responsibilities of pastoral care with nearly $29,000 in graduate student loan debt, and the future often feels overwhelming. With a new scholarship program for graduate theology students, Azusa Pacific University hopes to combat the increasing costs of ministerial training and preparation.

In spring 2004, APU’s Haggard School of Theology (HST) received a scholarship grant from the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Kern Family Foundation as part of an effort to encourage young people to serve in the ministry of the local church by funding their seminary education. The grant fully funds the three-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.) tuition for at least five new students each year.

“APU’s four Cornerstones are Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. The Kern Scholars Program fulfills all four of these aspects of our mission,” said Michael M. Whyte, Ph.D., provost. “It not only enables APU to provide a Christ-centered, high-quality education to ministers, but also serves the Church by supplying much needed financial support to individuals who will be on the front lines of the Great Commission.”

This grant provides full-ride scholarships each year to a minimum of five M.Div. students age 27 and under at APU, enabling students to earn their degree debt-free. The grant will increase to match tuition. The Kern Scholars Program offers mentoring opportunities and community experiences designed to encourage these leaders to support each other as they complete the M.Div. Program and move into formal ministry in the Church.

The foundation seeks to strengthen local churches by finding ways to encourage talented young people to enter the ministry. Entering the ministry can introduce many hurdles for graduates who face high levels of undergraduate debt, low salaries, congregations paralyzed by tradition and conflict, and a culture that presents forceful challenges to the Christian faith and ministry. By providing scholarships to seminary students, this grant eliminates much of the financial troubles associated with the decision to enter the ministry.