Update on the Financial Literacy Program (FLP) at Perkins

By The Rev. Margot Perez-Greene, PhD
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management

Since 2016, Perkins has had the generous support of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., to implement goals stated in the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM) sustainability grant. The late Rev. Bill Bryan, a Perkins faculty member and alum, was the original grant writer. It has been our privilege to take the baton from him and build upon the vision he had for the financial health of our students. Jean Nixon served as Financial Literacy Coordinator until her departure in December of 2019. Christina Rhodes assumed the role in October 2019.

Funding for the grant year will conclude on December 31, 2022. Personnel changes, the reorganization in the Office of Enrollment Management (2017), and most recently the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) have required two extension requests, which were approved. We have a plan for sustainability and are grateful for the support of the Perkins community, collaborators from other schools at SMU, executive board members who have shared their financial expertise with our students, and to the remarkable creativity of Jean and Christina. Sustainability would not be possible without their commitment to this program.

The ECFFM goal is to create a cultural shift from quiet shame and embarrassment toward an informed reality and empowered position concerning financial health and well-being. To help us keep focused on the goal during the pandemic, we set eight objectives in the Fall 2020 school year:

  1. Develop a worship service aligned with financial health (on-zoom),
  2. Maintain the financial literacy website,
  3. Enhance and continue the bi-monthly financial literacy newsletter,
  4. Provide scriptural texts for the weekly electronic news board,
  5. Increase visibility of the Financial Literacy Program (FLP) in recruitment activities,
  6. Convene a financial literacy book club,
  7. Be visible to alumni through the Online Perspective Magazine, and
  8. Engage the coordinator in financial literacy professional development.

Also in the fall of 2020, we developed a survey for new students to identify areas where more education was needed, including these areas:

  1. Tax questions about salary and housing for pastors
  2. Loans and budgeting
  3. Basic principles leading to financial freedom
  4. Budgeting in a volatile church climate
  5. Saving money.

These student testimonials demonstrate the great needs this important program helps address:

“The Saving Grace book study at Perkins offered (through its Financial Literacy Program) was a great way to start my first year at seminary. It helped me be intentional about my spending and renewed in the areas of commitments I had made in tithing and giving.”

“My greatest struggle was finances. Perkins was compassionate, willing to educate me and brainstorm together with me where I could find resources.”

We will continue to monitor and adjust our activities for the 2023 academic year so that we are relevant and meeting the needs of our students. Thank you for all the support as we look ahead for continuity of this initiative!

Sincerely,

Christina and Margot