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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

So You Want to Give a Scholarship?

By Mark Wootton
Jan. 15, 2012

While many of us struggle for years to become self-sufficient, we look forward to the time when we can help others “catch a break.” We want to help our children live a better lifestyle than we did. We want to bless our churches financially. We would like to make a generous impact on society for years to come. We even dream of giving a gift that will make the difference between failure and success in an individual’s life.

Many times the channel for that philanthropy is a scholarship. It is commonly accepted that helping young people invest in themselves will reap rewards for years or generations to come. But those who consider giving a scholarship encounter a multitude of questions. Based on my experiences in working with donors, the following seem to be the major issues.

Mercy or merit?

Should you have mercy on a student in great financial need? Many times students arrive at a Christian college without the support of parents. I am not just talking financially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Some college students have already lost one or both parents and are struggling to make ends meet. Others come from large families where there aren’t enough college funds to go around. A scholarship may make all the difference in the world.

But when need is due to financial dysfunction — the family’s or student’s lack of a budget or savings — one might believe scholarship dollars should be based exclusively on merit. The famous Pareto Principle teaches that 20 percent of the people in an organization will produce 80 percent of the results. It would seem to be good stewardship to devote scholarship funds to the 20 percent that will produce the greatest results and to seek out those already showing promise academically, spiritually and in leadership potential.

However, other donors with deeper pockets are usually standing at the doorsteps of these potential ministry leaders. State universities with full-ride scholarships seem unbeatable when we try to attract a student to a Christian college with limited scholarship resources. In addition, successful students usually come from a strong support system, financially as well as emotionally. Many times they are going to make it with or without outside help.

I have found the most powerful solution to be a combination of mercy and merit — that is, a student in need who is already giving evidence of exceptional achievement. They need mercy but exhibit merit. These are the students who are pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Perhaps it is that former drug addict who dropped out of high school but has made a turnaround and is now making the dean’s list. Perhaps it is that senior who has stuck it out for three years while working a job, but still needs loans to reapply. Having mercy on a meritorious student is a powerful combination.

Secular or Christian?

“Christian colleges are so much more expensive than secular colleges and universities,” the argument goes. “Wouldn’t my money go further giving scholarships that show mercy to meritorious students at a state university or community college?”

On the surface the answer seems to be yes. But let’s look deeper.

Why is it less expensive to attend a state university or community college? How can they charge so much less for tuition? We all know the answer to that question: They are subsidized with government money. Where does the government get its money? These subsidies come from taxpayers. Who are those taxpayers? You probably have a few in your church. That means every taxpayer in your church is already subsidizing any student from your church who attends a public college.

What if every Christian taxpayer decided to give an equivalent amount to support a private Christian college? The impact would be enormous. Christian colleges need that kind of thoughtful support just to be able to compete on a level playing field. However, the government will never recommend or enforce this. Christians must find a way to accomplish it on their own, church by church and individual by individual. Pastors can help facilitate this change, but they frequently struggle with more pressing financial challenges.

Right now or long term?

If you had $20,000 to give as scholarships, would you want to give 20 scholarships of $1,000 right now or one scholarship of $1,000 until Jesus returns? If you gave a Christian college $20,000 and told them to create an endowment, and they invested it with a return of 5 percent, it would earn $1,000 in interest every year, indefinitely. After 20 years you would have given away $20,000 in scholarships, but the principal of $20,000 would still earn interest for a scholarship the next year.

However, there would be 19 students right now who would face a harder struggle because they did not receive your help immediately. And, after all, isn’t Jesus coming back soon? At Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., the trend historically has been to get the money into the Kingdom right now. Only recently has there been a noticeable change. Trusts and endowments have increased by $1.8 million in just the last two years. Again, at a 5 percent return, that is an additional $90,000 for scholarships every year!


It is challenging to give a scholarship correctly. However, few things can match the satisfaction of watching a student head off to impact the world as a well-equipped, Spirit-filled believer when you know you made an investment in that life. May God bless you as you discover how to do it right. For more information about the 18 endorsed Assemblies of God colleges and universities visit

Dr. MARK WOOTTON is a professor of church ministries at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. He has previously served as vice president for college advancement at CBC as well as president of Western Bible College in Phoenix.

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