Many theological students are in over their heads with student debt, as Association of Theological Schools surveys of graduates attest. The phobia-like nature of financial anxiety makes people ignore their financial stress, which is now the top stressor in the United States. Robert Kegan’s In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life is used to understand the financial anxiety generated by the ‘hidden curriculum’ of both our neoliberal market society and the North American academic dream that promises academic and financial success through hard work. In an innovative program at Iliff School of Theology, funded by a Lilly Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM) grant, selected students in a self-care course used compassion-based spiritual practices to become more aware of their financial stress and avoidant coping in the hopes of facilitating more integrated, complex theologies of financial stress grounded in embodied and relational goodness. These students continued this theologically reflexive learning process in courses on financial literacy, leadership, and fundraising (initially for their own scholarships). At the end of their academic year, they demonstrated decreased guilt and shame and increased self-compassion about their student debt along with increased confidence and ability to successfully engage in scholarship fundraising activities.
Pastoral Psychology – Springer Journals
Published: May 16, 2017
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