The Cost of Private College

 —  November 14, 2014 — 5 Comments

Okay, so, here is a bit of a “zinger” topic…one that can bring up some emotion. But, does anyone else struggle with how much Christian colleges cost?

Look, I understand they don’t get state funding and they desire to have top-notch professors…and all that costs money. This is NOT necessarily a post saying they should lower tuition costs. I’m actually thinking of this from the other angle – the students who make the decisions to go the school. I value and appreciate the desire to get a “Christian” education and experience in college and I happen to think there is a place for it.


Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.44.36 AMWhat about all these people getting youth ministry degrees and going $30-50k in debt for it? How does that make sense? What about those that just want to be a pre-school teacher or go into social work? The debt for these types of people just doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

I can’t tell you how many people I know that are completely strapped because of their school debt. For instance, people like my friend who’s wife accumulated a bunch of debt to get a nursing degree…and yet now she just wants to stay at home with her children, but has to work 2 days a week JUST to pay for the debt. Such a huge bummer. Or what about another friend who went to a private Christian school to get a ministry degree, but recently had to back out of ministry because he wasn’t making enough to pay for the debt?

The national average of school debt of college grads is $28,400, but for those attending private schools the average debt is just short of $40,000. The average cost to attend a private, non-profit four year college is $42,419 a year, including housing and meal plan. On the other hand, the average cost for an in-state public college is just $22,826.

To be fair here, I attended a private Christian college. But, I chose a different route: I worked my way through and paid as I went. Sure, it took me 7 1/2 years to complete, but I graduated with zero debt. For me, I figured that was better than graduating in 4-5 years and then having to pay school debt back for the next 10+ years. I’m not suggesting what I did is the best way for everyone…but I am a bit frustrated that so many people are simply defaulting to loans just to attend a private school rather than really thinking through other possible options. For some vocations, the cost of private school just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. Intimate involvement in a local church seems to solve a lot of the issues that drive people to attend private Christian schools.

Am I totally off here?

Pizza nights, Slurpee runs, late night runs to McDonald’s, loads of chips and pop.

These sound like some of the awesome things that make a fellowship fun in youth ministry. Donuts, coffee, pie, potlucks, these are the things that make church fellowship excellent. People bond over food and drinks. Look at your house, people congregate around the kitchen. Look at a party, people are where the food is.

I don’t know about you, but I love food. Now I don’t think you could call me a true foodie (largely because I’ll eat anything from fast food to fancy food) but you can certainly bet that if something delicious is out I’m not far away.

As a youth pastor I am constantly around junk food, and pop. I love the stuff, but I have to resist eating it.  This past January I was hit with the harsh reality that I was seriously overweight. I had always known I was a little on the “husky side” but I had pushed beyond that and gone into a category all of its own “obese”. Now I hate the word, because many people can’t get around it but the fact of the matter is that I hit that level on a medical chart. So I decided I would do something about, I started exercising more and trying to eat better. Since January of last year I have lost 35lbs, slipping back down into the category of “overweight”. That isn’t crazy fast weight loss, but it is great because I have still been eating what I want( for the most part) and I haven’t regained even when my exercise or eating have spun back out of control for a day or week or two.

So why am I talking about this. I am not talking about it because I want praise, I am not talking about it because I think that I have gone from HUGE to tiny. I am talking about it because when I look around at the many youth pastors and church staff I know as a whole, I see a lot of overweight people. We have a calling to work with people, our jobs require us to be at a desk often working, studying, emailing and praying. These are parts of the job that are required, so we can’t put them off. But what is going on with our waistlines. Its scary they are ever growing!

I feel like it needs to be said: “Youth workers, Pastors, friends we need to lose some weight”. There are a few reasons why I think we need to lose it:

1) We are called to be good stewards in life
This is a stewardship of our ministry, our family life, our money and yes even our own bodies. If we don’t take care of our bodies, we are actually hampering our ministry. Whether we like to admit it or not, being overweight will eventually cause what we eat to come back to bite you. (pun intended). We will have health problems directly relating to our eating and body weight.

2)  We are examples to those we work with
We are examples to the people we work with. As christian leaders we strive to show good habits of reading scripture, worshipping God, treating people with respect and leading a life of health and balance.  But when it comes to the pastors I know, we often have a bit of a problem with eating and self control. If we want to be good examples, we should strive to have balance in every aspect of life.w

3) For your family
Do it for your wife, your husband, your kids or your grandchildren. I currently have no kids but I do have a wife and my weight directly affects her. It affects her in my level of energy, since I have been exercising more and eating better I have had more energy to go do fun things with her. And I have even been able to serve her better because I’ve been cleaning and cooking with some of my spare energy!( I’ll tell you that she loves it!)

While I am still young I can’t help but think of the long term, I hope to be a healthy and active grandparent one day. I look at my grandfather and because of obesity we never went out and did much together. But when I look at my wife’s one set of grandparents they are in their 80’s and go hiking weekly and we go sailing together often during the summer. It is truly a joy that I hope to be able to experience when I am in my 80’s.

If I don’t take care of myself now though, I certainly won’t have the health and fitness to be able to go for fun trips with my grand kids when they are in their 20’s. I think we should start a challenge amongst the Christian Leadership network for weight loss. Let’s get the ball rolling.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

It’s still the second biggest taboo in Youth Ministry after salary, but ministry budgets are really important to talk about even though discussing them make people squirm. I wrote a few months back about a better way of talking about budgets with other pastors by comparing budget on a per student basis. But a pattern that I have noticed in my ministry, and I have seen in others as well, is that an increase in budget can result in a decrease in diligence of good stewardship.

To give a little context to this, 2 years ago our youth ministry had a budget of 8% of what it was in 2001. There were similar amounts of students and leaders and 75% less paid staff. In the time between now and then was a period where the group shrunk and the budget did accordingly. I will never complain about the finite budget had because it taught me a few things:

Tight budgets breed creativity: There is a great book called $5 Youth Ministry and for many youth pastors that is the name of the game. Getting creative, shopping on craigslist, building a home made catapult pumpkin launcher; this is the stuff that the memories are made of. Not having a lot of money to spend creates environment where collaboration and brainstorming happen, where students and leaders can use their gifts in ways that buying a solution might now allow.

Tight budgets promote stewardship: I can remember vividly, 3 years in a row, where I was a volunteer in my early 20’s and not paying for a youth trip because I knew that if I dragged my feet long enough that the Church would just pay for it or forget about it. Not the lesson we want to teaching leaders and students. Following up with all students and leaders to make sure they pay is a great teachable moment around stewardship, commitment and integrity. Lets face it, it is also a great teachable moment for ourselves to learn to be thorough in planning and executing events.

Big budgets can breed wastefulness: As we have transitioned from a season of very tight budgeting to one where there has been an increase, I have noticed a decrease in my urgency to return things that I didn’t need, to buy more, or to buy frivolous things. It’s easy when there is a little more to spend, coupled with the attitude that I have to spend all of my budget if I want to get it back, that can cause purchases and events based solely on the reasoning of “why not?”.

I often need to remind myself that I am spending our congregant’s tithes that they have entrusted to me to spend for the furthering of the Kingdom. Having a small youth budget is not a death sentence, in fact it’s really a formative experience to work within one. Learning to use your budget wisely will allow for your effectiveness to grow proportionately with your budget.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.