By Kevin Mungons
For anyone wondering if college scholarship programs are worth the hassle, look no further than Andrew Burman, a sophomore at Faith Baptist Bible College.
“I don’t have a ton of money,” Andrew says, stating the obvious. “And I’m hoping to maybe get married, then I’m hoping to look for a full-time ministry position.”
His path—and his personal finances—might force him to work for a year after college, but his essential passion and calling are clear: “I have no idea where yet—just whatever opens up, wherever God leads.”
That’s what drew him to the GARBC Christian Character Scholarship program. The program identifies rising leaders who are serving Christ in their communities and churches and then supports them with a scholarship to a participating Christian college.
Andrew can’t remember how he found out about the scholarship program (“I have a lot of associations with GARBC people,” he says). Maybe at Temple Baptist in Lincoln, Nebraska, his home church. Or maybe at Whispering Cedars Baptist Camp, or from the other churches in the Nebraska Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Then there’s the GARBC pastors in his own family: “My grandpa (David Burman Sr.) and my uncle (David Burman Jr.)—both of them are pretty involved in the GARBC. So I heard about it from somewhere in there.”
Without trying, Andrew unwittingly demonstrates the power of church associations, a whole network of ministries that share his passion for serving in the local church. His pastor, Jeremy Penrod, explains how their church encourages high school graduates to spend at least one year at a Bible college. And for Penrod, “It’s more than just verbal encouragement—it’s financial as well.”
Two of the church’s young people have received GARBC scholarships. One of those people is preparing to be a pastor and the other to be a teacher. “We praise the Lord for our partnership that encourages our young people to pursue their education at Christian colleges,” Penrod says.
“It’s been a blessing for me,” Andrew says of the scholarship money. By all accounts, his plan is aggressive. He’s taking a heavy load of classes, cramming four years of college into three to save a year of tuition. And he’s working nearly full-time at a Kwik Star gas station, the sort of job that pays the bills and leaves him with plenty of sermon illustrations.
All high school seniors encounter a financial-aid maze full of myths and misinformation, accompanied by a mountain of paperwork, plus a few urban fables about “unclaimed scholarship money” from sketchy websites (“click here—find out more!”). And for the niche category of students who pursue funding for church ministry, “small is the gate and narrow is the way.” Their enemy is college debt, the one thing that prevents them from fulfilling their calling.
“Having the financial burden of education lessened is an incredible blessing, making it easier to spend less time distracted by cost concerns,” Andrew says.
The GARBC awards up to twenty-four scholarships each year. High school students apply in the fall, then the GARBC Council of Eighteen selects recipients to honor their godly Christian character through active service in a GARBC church and testimony in the community.
Participating colleges are Appalachian Bible College, Bob Jones University, Cedarville University, Clarks Summit University, Faith Baptist Bible College, and Shasta Bible College. And each year, the GARBC strives to provide matching funds to the dollar amount awarded by the participating colleges—up to $25,000.
The first generation of scholarship recipients are halfway through college, receiving the Bible education and spiritual development that equips them to follow God’s unique purpose for their lives.
And after all the talk about college funding, Andrew finishes in a surprising place—it’s not just about the money. “It’s nice to have believers looking out for each other when the focus is toward ministry,” he says. “People are giving you this money because they care about what you can do. They believe in what you’re capable of, and they want to help you succeed and find what God has planned for you.”
Kevin Mungons is the backlist curator for Moody Publishers. This article was published in the Spring 2023 Baptist Bulletin. Subscribe to receive The Baptist Bulletin magazine in your mailbox or inbox.