Steps for Conquering Student Debt

By Matt DeBallaway-1356948_1280

I remember very clearly when God nudged me to pursue ministry as a career. I also
remember the palatable community atmosphere of a Christian college, and knowing that it was God’s next step for me. Though both of these experiences were nearly a decade ago or more, they are memories I have often revisited to recall God’s faithfulness. What has followed both of these events is in line with Paul’s blessing: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Though your experience may be rather different than mine, all who follow Jesus are faced with opportunities that require counting the cost and taking steps of faith. My 18-year-old self could not have fully understood the endeavor of paying for college, but did understand that college (and, later, seminary) was an investment in my future. Thankfully, I was blessed by the support of my parents, my church, and my schools (via scholarships), which significantly reduced the amount of student loans required to complete my degrees.

Having completed my time in college and seminary, repaying student loans has begun. Here’s what this next step of my journey looks like:

1) Before graduation, chosing a repayment plan that would work best for my wife and me. Depending on which plan you choose, you may be able to change plans later. Typical
board-2084777_1280options include several standard repayment models (the same payment amount every month during the course of your loan, smaller payments leading to larger payments, and vise versa) and income-based repayment plans. There are also options for deferring loans if your current financial situation is difficult and prevents you from repaying with a regular plan.

2) Making small (or significant) lifestyle adjustments to pay for student loans. This includes finding a source of additional or increased income and/or cutting back on leisure expenses in order to faithfully make monthly payments.

3) As often as possible, paying more than the minimum monthly requirement. In addition to cost savings, you can target the lowest valued loan with the highest interest rate, and over time decease the rate of accumulating interest as you pay off each loan (what many call the “snowball method”).

4) Celebrating milestones along the way. celebrate-1835387_1280Regardless of how much you owe or how many loans you have, its important to celebrate when you pay off a student loan or decrease the value of your loans a certain amount (e.g. every $5,000 or $10,000).

5) Having hope that loan payments are purposeful and won’t last forever. Even the loans with the shortest lifespans (10 years) can feel like they will never end. Even though repayment can take (a long) time, it’s important to remember the results of your loans: a quality education, the opportunity to be qualified for desired jobs, and/or being faithful to God’s call for your life.

If you find yourself in the midst of paying back student loans, take heart: God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful in the future.

About the Author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and Chelsea live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you’ve read? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

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Finding Your Enough: A Personal Reflection

By Timothy Siburg

Two and a half months ago my wife Allison and I packed up all of our worldly belongings- our countless boxes of books, dressers full of clothes, and our entire winter wear wardrobe. With the help of our family, we loaded all of it, except for one car load’s worth, in a moving container, and then watched as it was driven out of sight in early mid-August.

Now we’re in Nebraska. We know where we will be living, but can’t quite move in yet. We are excited to dive deeply into our roles and callings. And even though we don’t have our own home right now, we have been graciously welcomed by the local Lutheran camp, and two great friends who have been hosting and housing us.

small-wooden-house-906912_1920This past month, as we have lived without our own space in Nebraska, has been an “in-between time of sorts.” Or, perhaps as one of my favorite pastors likes to say, a wilderness time. It’s been a beautiful time to reflect, live simply, and be in community with those hosting us.

The other day, Allison leaned over and asked, “do you miss our stuff?” I said, “sort of,” and then proceeded to ask her the same question. Allison said, “nope. It’s been great.” Perhaps one day we’ll be a “Tiny House” family yet? Though we’ll definitely have to downsize our library of books.

This experience has been one where we have had to make do with less. And you know what, strangely, we have. And it hasn’t been bad at all. It’s been a chance for me to think about what indeed is my enough.

What does your enough look like?postergen-chalkboard-generator-i-have-enough-and-i-am-enough

Besides a sense of having enough stuff, there is the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sense of being enough. Allison likes to remind me of the work of author Brene Brown.

Among many of the great quotes Brene Brown has shared, she has said that, “We are living in scarcity. If we want change, choose gratitude and joy over scarcity.”

For me, this means deeply knowing and being reminded that I have enough and I am enough.

Feeling called, loved, and affirmed, and helping others feel the same, that’s enough for me. Being able to help others grow and be better at what they do, that fulfills me. And knowing that God is with me, and being open to whatever that relationship and call looks like, is more than enough and opens up doors to experiences like the one I am having now in this in-between time of life, with more than enough.

About the author
timothy headshot
Timothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison has been called to be an ELCA pastor, and the two of them reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.

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