Faith and Finance: Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers Forum

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October 19, 2017

Currently I work as a graduate assistant for Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM) initiative at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. Earlier in October, I had the privilege to attend Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers Forum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The forum was hosted by ATS (The Association of Theological Schools) partnered with Lily Endowment Inc. Together with approximately a hundred attendees with a wide range of ecclesial background, academic and administrative formation, and vocations, I was able to theologically reflect on faith and finance, and practices addressing economic challenges facing future ministers.

Starting this semester as the ECFFM graduate assistant, I have learned about a great deal of economic challenges in the Roman Catholic Church for lay ecclesial ministers ranging from having educational debt to having unjust human resource practices at local parishes. Through the ECFFM initiative, Dr. Barbara Sutton has responded to this economic injustice by providing financial literacy for SOT students and ministerial workplace conversation for local ministers. Understanding the current economic situation that is detrimental to ministerial effectiveness cannot be overlooked. Barbara and I share the similar interest and hope to equip students with financial stewardship skills that would greatly prepare them financially for future ministry.

Having this hope for economic justice in the church, the forum has widened my knowledge about the topic from attending its informative and reflective sessions on faith and finance. The sessions contained some insights on strategic practices to address the issue. From listening to the educators and administrators at this forum, I have learned that they have been working unceasingly to assist future ministers through strategic practices such as financial courses at educational institutions, financial aid service, and financial stewardship at the congregation. Together we have learned to integrate faith with finance rigorously at our congregation and institutions to form a better theology of money that is grounded on the truth of God’s sufficiency.

The highlight of the forum for me was meeting and talking to people from various denominations, expertise and occupation and gaining perspective from their wisdoms and ongoing works for economic challenges facing future ministers. It was an enkindling experience to witness that we are working toward the same goal to better the economic life for future ministers. The image of two fishes and five loaves guided us throughout the whole forum, and serves as the daily reminder to work collaboratively, to gather our resources for the glory of the kingdom. This is the image for us to know our call to offer what we have and ask God to multiply it. 

Frank M. Yamada, the new executive director of the ATS concluded the session with a question: “What insight/practice from this forum do you want to implement at your current organization/institution/congregation?” As a graduate student myself, I rediscovered that money and finance are always a central piece to my vocational discernment journey. I think it is important for me as a student to be comfortable sharing my faith and finance story in the church to foster healthy financial stewardship that significantly shapes my spiritual life holistically. Reflecting my own challenges and experiences that have guided me to understand the meaning of sufficiency in spiritual and financial life, I hope to implement faith and finance discussion at the Lunchtime Conversation on Wednesday so that the community might gain a better perspective on this topic. Finally, observing the good works and generosity of our donors as a means to steward the SOT mission and vision, I hope students respond with their vocational stories in a deeper way with donors to form mutual relationship. Together we may be guided towards a wealth, not based on possessions, and an economy of abundance that reflects God’s economy in the church. 

Written by Janice Kristanti, M.Div. Candidate