Does your heart long to minister to cities? The need for active, Christian urban ministry is excellent in places with large, diverse populations representing a broad set of challenges. However, many potential ministers are unsure whether they can access the necessary training to take part.

There is a disturbing irony in this. Addressing issues stemming from poverty, including the lack of access to education, is an essential aim of urban ministry. It’s only natural to feel frustrated if you want to help but feel you don’t have the help you need to step into this role.

Thankfully, there are many ways to overcome the financial obstacle to urban ministry education.

The Financial Obstacle

The first step you should take toward pursuing any degree in urban Christian ministries is determining what you can do to generate funds. 

While there is help available in the form of financial aid (see below), it is best understood as assistance covering part of tuition costs. The rest can be covered in several ways, many of which you may already be doing:

  • Working a second job. This isn’t realistic for everybody, especially if you have a family you need to be there for. Overwork isn’t wise (it’s why we have the Sabbath!). But for some, a part-time job on the side can generate a good college or seminary tuition fund. And a job through the Federal Work-Study program while enrolled can keep it going.
  • Family support. Not every urban ministry student has family or friends with the resources to help, but it may be worth asking. Many see support for a ministry student in the same light as supporting an active missionary. It’s an investment in the Kingdom.
  • Personal fundraising. Churches and local service clubs (such as Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis) often have awards to support students. It’s often worth it to seek a nomination. Even non-religious clubs like to support students who want to make a positive impact.

These are just a few examples of ways you might generate funds independently, and the more you can raise or pull from any personal savings, the more you can limit the need to take on student loan debt.

Beyond personal funds, which often fall short of covering tuition for a traditional degree program in urban ministry, you have several options to pursue your goal affordably.

Address the Time Factor

The most significant factor that determines the overall cost of your urban ministry program is its length. Rather than assume you need to devote a certain number of years to this, determine the minimum degree level you need to achieve your goals.

If you have an undergraduate degree and feel called to:

  • Ascend to the highest levels of leadership, overseeing the administration of urban Christian ministries as a pastor/director. You may need to plan for 3+ years to pursue a doctoral degree.
  • Join the executive leadership team in urban ministry as a member of a church’s professional staff member or church planter. Then you may only need 2-3 years of graduate study to receive a Master’s degree.

If you’re just starting your journey in higher education and feel called to:

  • Take on an entry-level leadership role as a teacher in a church setting, member of a mission field staff, or counselor; then, you should plan for four years to obtain your bachelor’s degree.
  • Obtain a paid position in a church or urban ministry setting with the potential to take on more responsibility in the future; then, you may only need to spend two years to earn an associate’s degree.

There is no standard you have to reach beyond what God is calling you to do. Here at CCCTS, our admissions counselors help students right-size their degree program to meet goals rather than spend more time and money than necessary.

Eliminate the Cost of Relocation

One of the most challenging obstacles for urban ministry students to overcome is the difficulty of uprooting their lives to move to their college or seminary of choice. This is especially hard on adult learners who are established elsewhere, with a job and perhaps an owned home.

While this can be emotionally stressful, it’s also financially challenging. The costs of moving, giving up a job, housing that may be more expensive, public or personal transportation in a city where it might be less affordable, and similar concerns can add up.

The 21st-century solution is online learning. Programs that entirely online eliminate the need to attend classes in person, making relocation and all the costs associated with it unnecessarily.

This is why CCCTS offers all its programs online. The costs, complications – and in the time of COVID-19, the public health concerns – of relocating to Charlotte, NC should not be a barrier to you fulfilling your call to urban ministry. Thanks to Populi, it doesn’t have to be.

Reduce the Out-of-Pocket Cost

Once you have applied for personal funds, right-sized your program, and, if applicable to you, selected an online program to keep the cost of tuition down, you can further reduce the cost to you through scholarships and discounts.

Never assume that you don’t qualify for a scholarship or tuition reduction. Exemplary academic performance and experience in urban ministry aren’t the only criteria. What you pay for tuition may be reduced based on:

  • Your career direction
  • Military service
  • Special needs (e.g., disability)
  • International citizenship
  • A sibling enrolled at the same time
  • High school/college GPA

This is just a partial list. Always work with an admissions counselor to determine what scholarships or tuition discounts you may be eligible for, and apply for all of them.

Borrow to Defer Cost

Finally, student loans fill the rest of the financial gap for most college and seminary students. To apply for low-interest loans backed by the federal government, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

If necessary, you can also apply for student loans from private lenders such as banks, but these often have a higher interest rate and add to your future debt. It’s always best to borrow no more than you need and from the federal government to the fullest extent possible.

At CCCTS, we work with students to help them find the best financial aid solution that won’t create an undue financial burden that will distract them from their future work in urban ministry.

Afford Your Degree in Urban Ministry at Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary

Affordability is part of the discussion for most traditional college students and just about every adult learner. When it comes to urban ministry, it’s all the more vital to talk about.

At CCCTS, we believe that if the Lord is calling you to ministry, He can and will remove any barrier that appears to stand in the way of His purposes for your life.

That is why we prayerfully create educational plans and financial aid packages personalized to each learner’s unique needs. We offer:

  • The affordability of 100% online learning
  • Dozens of donor-sponsored scholarships and awards
  • Discounts for multiple family members and international students
  • Special aid to persons with disabilities and veterans
  • Dean’s and President’s List scholarships
  • Apply each Spring for in-house scholarships for existing students such as Lee and Carrol Flowe Scholarship, Gaston and Sylvia Grigg Scholarship, and the Susan Ray Grigg scholarships available to Urban Ministry students.

And much more. A complete list of our scholarships, awards, and discounts is available in our financial aid handbook.

What financial obstacles appear to be in the way of your career goals in urban ministry? Let us know. God-willing, we’ll create a plan to overcome them together.

Featured image by Kzenon via Adobe Stock