Admissions

Raising Financial Support

 

At Oak Hill, we believe that the church deserves leaders who are theologically educated. We know that the training required to equip a person effectively for long-term ministry requires an investment of time and money, and that fundraising for that training is not just the work of one evening.

While the amount of funding required to train at College may seem daunting, the information here is designed to help you think about potential sources of support. And as fundraising is an opportunity to identify supporters to partner with you in your training and long-term ministry, we also include some pointers on how you might effectively bring supporters on this journey with you.

To help give you an idea for what raising support could look like for you, we’ve asked a handful of current students to share their story of fundraising.  See the case studies section below to find out more. 

You may already be aware of Stewardship who are an organisation that can help with raising and facilitating support, and they offer a number of helpful things for Bible College students. See the section below for more information.

 

Potential funding sources

We list here the most common sources of funding for Oak Hill students. Please bear in mind that each student’s funding profile is different. For some, one funding source might cover most or all of their College fees while others will have a mix of funding sources. We would encourage you not to discount a potential funding source until you investigate it for yourself.

Sending church

Many students find that their home church (or a church where they have worked or have a relationship with) is able to provide some financial support. This could be individuals within the church family or funding from the church centrally. If this is not something that you have considered, it would be worth chatting with your minister or one of your elders about the best way to approach this.

Individuals (family & friends)

Think of all the people you know – friends, family, home group members, social media contacts, work colleagues, neighbours etc. Would some of them be willing to partner with you prayerfully and financially in your theological training? This might be a one-off donation that covers a specific part of your budget (such as your textbooks) or regular monthly support.

Please don’t make the assumption that someone won’t want to give, perhaps because you feel they don’t have much money, and try not to let embarrassment or fear of rejection stop you asking someone to partner with you. Arrange to meet with a person to chat about why you’re undertaking theological training and see if they could be part of your support team.  You are giving them an opportunity to express gospel partnership which is a precious thing.

Stewardship (gift aid & advice)

Stewardship is an organisation that can help with raising and facilitating support. You can read about them on their 'About Us' page. They offer a number of helpful things for Bible College students:

  • They offer an account for Bible College students which can be a good way to manage the financial support you receive from individuals and you can apply for an account once you have accepted the offer of a place on a full time programme at Oak Hill. With this ‘Partner Account for Individuals’, Stewardship process donations made to you, handle Gift Aid for you (which boosts income by 25% on eligible donations), and make regular payments directly to your bank account. You can read more about the Partner Accounts here. Applications for such an account are made online via their website. 
  • Stewardship have produced a mini-series of videos called ‘What I wish I knew before I started support raising’ (about 1 hour in total).  It will give you much food for thought and prayer, as well as help you think about whether to do their fuller training on support raising.
  • Visit Support Raising Training to find out more about their fuller online training.

Charities & trusts

There are a number of trust funds that wish to support gospel ministry and in some cases grants could be over £1000. You can identify the names of potential trusts by searching the Charity Commission's Register of Charities

The following are some tips for searching the Charity Register:

  • Use the advanced search and enter key words such as ‘gospel’ and ‘evangelical’ mixed with terms like ‘trust’ and ‘training’.
  • Apply the following filters to the search (under ‘classifications’):
    • What the charity does: ‘religious activities’
    • How the charity helps: ‘makes grants to individuals’
  • You will get a lengthy list of search results. Quite a few will be churches that are registered charities and you can ignore these results (unless you have a particular connection to that church!)
  • When you click on the name of a particular trust, select contact information from the right-hand sidebar to go to the trust’s website where you can find further information, including guidance on submitting an application and details about their selection criteria.

Please note that Oak Hill is unable to provide a list of trust funds. This is to avoid both us endorsing any particular trusts and applicants applying to trusts in a presumptive way without taking the time to find out anything about the trust.

Once you have identified potential trusts to which you could apply, please bear the following in mind when preparing applications:

  • Make sure you meet the trust’s eligibility criteria, as it would be a waste both of your time and the trust’s time to apply for something for which you’re not eligible.
  • Most trusts only meet a couple of times a year and so it’s worth finding out when a trust meets so that you don’t inadvertently miss a relevant deadline.
  • While you may want to use a basic template for your applications, take the time to tailor your application to the specific trust.
  • Ensure that you provide the information a trust wants in the way that they want it; for instance, some trusts have application forms while for others you would write a letter of application.
  • Include with your application any specific items requested by the trust, such as references or a breakdown of your budget for the year.

Government support

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for some form of government support such as Child Benefit. Details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits.

Please note that Oak Hill applicants/students may not apply for Student Finance support (tuition fee/maintenance loans and supplementary grants from the Student Loans Company such as Parents’ Learning Allowance). This is because the College has taken the decision to withdraw its registration with the Office for Students (the independent regulator for higher education in England) and all such loans and grants are contingent upon HE providers being registered with the Office for Students. If you had intended to apply for a tuition fee loan, you might decide to apply instead for an Oak Hill College Bursary.

Oak Hill College Bursary Fund

The College offers three types of bursaries to enable a wide range of students to access theological training:

  • Our recently launched Access Bursary is designed to increase the breadth of our student body and to provide financial support to those who need it most.
  • If studying at Oak Hill would be your first undergraduate qualification, you can apply for our Partnership Bursary.
  • Or, if you are a current student and find you have a shortfall on your budget, having explored all other sources, you can apply for our Closing the Gap Bursary.

For more details about the College’s bursaries for students, please visit Bursaries for students.

Church of England ordinands

If you are going through the Church of England selection procedure for ordained ministry, please ensure that you are in contact with your Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) regarding the financial planning for your possible training. The normal expectation is that funding for an ordinand’s fees is provided by Ministry Division to the sponsoring diocese, who in turn pay the training institution, and that your sponsoring diocese will cover living expenses and advise you of additional grants/allowances available.

Partnership: more than raising a budget

As part of the Oak Hill admissions process, you will be asked to give evidence of how you plan to meet your budget for the first year of your training. However, we would encourage you to go beyond simply raising a budget by taking this as an opportunity to identify supporters who can partner with you long term – people who will pray for you and encourage you and not simply fund part of your training.  

Paul’s letter to the Philippians makes it clear that gospel ministry should be viewed as a partnership (e.g. Phil 1:36, 4:10-20). Try therefore to set aside the mindset that asking others to support you is a one-sided transaction where you’re taking their hard-earned money.  By supporting you they too are benefitting by sharing in the advance of the gospel.

The following are some points to remember as you bring supporters on a partnership journey with you:

  • Communicate well: If you’re meeting with a potential supporter, don’t make the conversation all about you. Take an interest in them, hear what they think about what you’re doing, and chat about the reasons why you’re pursuing training. And respond promptly to say thank you when an individual or organisation agrees to provide support.
  • Record keeping: If you’re receiving support from multiple sources, it’s important to keep track of who has pledged financial support, how this money will come to you, and the contact details for supporters. One way of doing this is to keep all of your support raising documents in an organised file and another would be to use a spreadsheet that you regularly update.
  • Provide regular updates: Keep supporters up to date with what you’ve been learning in your training. For some people, a regular newsletter works well whereas for others phoning for a chat might be more helpful. And it’s not just individuals who need to be updated – if you’re receiving support from trusts they will expect an annual update, particularly if you are requesting a further year of support.

Case studies

Married student, full time BA (Hons), with three pre-school aged children

We knew we would be going to Bible College at least two years in advance and so we started to put money aside each month as we were able. Once we decided to attend Oak Hill, we created a budget of our anticipated expenditure based on the figures College provided on fees and accommodation etc. It also involved reviewing our spending in the previous year and making decisions about where we could tighten our belts.

We then reviewed our anticipated income. For us, that was child benefit and rent we would receive on our family home when we moved. Once we’d estimated how much we would be able to save before starting College, we were able to work out what our shortfall was for the two years we were anticipating being at Oak Hill. It was tens of thousands of pounds and it felt daunting to have to raise that amount of money. Nevertheless, we looked to the Lord knowing that he promises to provide for all our needs, and prayed that he would do so.

We made the decision not to directly ask people for financial support, as such, but we did make the need known by sending out a prayer letter to our loved ones. We were blown over by the support we received. Words can’t describe just how kind and generous God has been and it’s been an absolute privilege to see him work through his people to provide for our needs. Comments like ‘we can’t go to Bible College, but we can send you’ and ‘God hasn’t given us gifts of teaching, but he’s given us money which we want to give to you’ have shown partnership in the gospel in action.

Most of our support came from a small number of large donors. It’s fair to say that we were (pleasantly) surprised by some of our donors, both in terms of who decided to support us and the sums they were willing to gift. For example, some family members gift us £500 a month! We’re so grateful to God for how he’s deepened relationships with our donors; some of whom we knew well before College, and others not so well. We used Stewardship to manage the gifts; they’re able to claim Gift Aid on our behalf and it’s easier to keep track on gifts. This especially helps with sending thank you cards! Some donors, however, found it confusing, and so preferred to send us cheques instead.

There was still a shortfall and so we applied to several charitable trusts. We received grants (of between £1,000 and £3,000) from only three. (Though we also received an offer of a grant for £15,000 over two years which it turned out we didn’t need.)

As we near the end of our time at College, we look back and see how God had it all sorted from the very beginning. For that, we give him thanks.

Single student, full time BA (Hons)

I was 24 years old when I began to think about coming to Oak Hill. Having spent the previous six years as a student and a Church apprentice (i.e. not earning), I wasn’t sure how I would be able to afford it.

Working out how much I needed wasn’t difficult. I got in touch with someone who had been at College in a similar ‘life-stage’ to me (aka a single guy in his mid-twenties going independently). Once I knew the cost of accommodation and tuition fees, I came up with an estimate for living costs per year. I now had a target. Could I meet it?

I was working a job that I considered a stop-gap before College and wasn’t earning enough to save anything significant quickly. But by asking around I was able to create a list of potential supporters. On the one hand I had relevant charities and organisations, and on the other I had friends, family, and networking. Application processes can take months, but I slowly started to build on two early donations from my sending Church and the FIEC. Helpfully, most charities do not require you to have a confirmed place at a College and agree to a pledge before anything is concrete. This meant I was able to apply to many, and I felt flexible with my timeline, choice of College and mode of study.

Early on someone told me ‘God’s people are generous’, and this proved to be true. I received support from some surprising people (including some I didn’t know too well) and realised that people across the Church really value the training of their leaders.

Within a year of starting to save I felt hopeful about doing at least two years full time at Oak Hill. While full time study is not cheap, it is a big help knowing that you can commit to one year at a time. Two years later I can agree that 'God's people are generous'. God knows how to prepare his people and Oak Hill is one path he likes to pave. 

Married student, full time BA (Hons), with one pre-school aged child

We’d been living overseas working with a mission organisation for a couple of years before we came to College. We had a network of prayer and financial support from a number of churches and many friends who partnered with us in the gospel. We had been talking with our church leaders about moving abroad for a couple of years before we went, and their recognition of God’s calling was an important part of our decision to go ahead. We also sought the opinion of a number of trusted Christian friends, who prayed with us and encouraged us.

After we applied to join the mission organisation, we began producing a monthly prayer letter, and shared about the needs of the nation we were praying for. We were invited to speak at our childhood churches, and a couple of churches friends are members of, and we used this opportunity to ask people to sign up to receive our prayer letter. In this way, we built up a strong network of prayer support. We have a tin of photos of our prayer supporters on our breakfast table: we tend to pray for three of them most days. We’ve found this helps us to keep in touch, hear their stories and be thankful for them – it makes partnership more two-way.

We haven’t raised the topic of financial support: we only shared details if people asked us. This was a personal choice, in line with the values of our mission organisation: we know many people have a different approach, exercising the same faith! We have been greatly encouraged to see God’s faithful provision through the generosity of his people. Living by faith in this way wasn’t without its challenges. Sometimes we would ask God to give us some confirmation before we made steps of faith, and often within a week a small unexpected gift would land in our bank account.

When it came to applying to College, the same things have been important for us: seeking confirmation of our call from church leaders and trusted friends, a large network of praying friends, and faith that God would provide what we need when we need it (even if that turned out to be in a different way than we’d hoped for). The Lord has continued to give us plenty of opportunity to exercise faith with regard to our finances, and when we’ve had big decisions to make, we’ve taken them prayerfully. We are currently supported by a small number of churches and a larger number of Christian friends. We are receiving support from three different Christian trust funds, as well as using personal savings. We’re thankful for the sacrificial generosity of God’s people.

Single student, full time BA (Hons)

I found raising financial support for College an overall positive experience! It gave me the opportunity to explain to people why I was choosing to go to Oak Hill, and meant I came with a group of people committed to praying for me and supporting me in lots of ways, including by giving financially.

My main sources of funding came from my sending church, close friends, and three trusts which I applied to. I had been thinking about coming to College for a while, and my church and friends had been involved in my thinking process from early on, and so asking people for financial support didn’t come out of the blue. Having said that, asking individuals at times still felt a bit scary as it feels like a vulnerable thing to be doing.  I also felt some anxieties about support raising as it can be hard going from earning a salary to having to ask for support. But I was so encouraged by people’s responses – even if people weren’t in a position to support me financially, they expressed support and commitment to pray. People also surprised me with their generosity, and it was so good for me spiritually to pray for the finances to come in and depend on God in that way.

One final thing – the whole process took 3-4 months and quite a bit of time, with writing trust applications, letters to people, keeping up to date with responses, and setting up a stewardship account, so worth getting started as soon as possible!

If you have any questions or would like to talk through your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us in the Admissions Office and we'll be glad to help.