Some Thoughts on College Debt: The Next Economic Crisis

My wife and I were fortunate enough to go to college in a time when it was still affordable. Thanks in large part to our parents, a number of scholarships, and some low-paying jobs, we were both able to complete our undergraduate studies debt-free. Also, before turning the tassel on my seminary education, I was able to pay every bill in full. Even so, as a young couple, we struggled to make ends meet.

Today’s college graduates, in many cases, have it much worse. Total student debt has tripled in this country the past ten years to an estimated $1.2 billion. An average millennial (ages 18-35) has over $41,000 in college debt or the equivalent of 18% of their average starting salary in loan repayment! Millennials with that amount of debt often times can’t buy a house or a new car and struggle to tithe to their local church,.

Some economists predict that student loan default will lead to the next great recession. We all remember the “housing bubble" of 2008. Economists are calling this phenomenon the “education bubble.” 

Not every graduating high school student should go to college. In particular, they should not go if their career choice doesn’t require it. That being said, some students will need to go to college and should they decide to attend a traditional four-year undergraduate school, if things don’t change, they will more than likely graduate with a debt payoff plan bigger than my first mortgage payment.

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." Proverbs 22:7

That’s where The Virtues Campus comes in. The Virtues Campus brings together the flexibility of online classes through Waldorf University in Iowa with a local on-campus community here in Coon Rapids and other locations. The first of its kind, The Virtues Campus offers students an affordable, accredited, biblically integrated liberal arts education for less than $10,000 a year.

Upon receiving an associate degree, students who attend The Virtues Campus will be awarded a $25,000 scholarship from Waldorf which will go a long way in paying for a debit-free bachelor degree.

According to The Virtues Campus website, students meet three days a week with a trained, academic pastor (my good friend, Dr. Dave Glesne), and enrollment for each campus is capped at 25 students. “This unique style of learning gives students the freedom of a flexible study schedule, while allowing them to enjoy a campus experience where they collaborate on academic projects with their peers, participate in career-readiness activities, and study how God's Word is applied to learning and living.”

The early church in America birthed many great universities that trained future leaders, grounded in God’s Word. Regrettably, many of those same universities are no longer sound in their teaching and are strapping this next generations of students with unmanageable, lifelong debt.

Parents and students: Check out your options. Research. Do your homework. Project that future salary based on a major or degree and decide if a four-year traditional degree is worth the cost. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. That's between you and God.

If you want an alternative, I encourage you to check out The Virtues Campus in Coon Rapids and see it its right for you.

Northgate Church is passionate about helping people become who God purposed them to be—debt free.


Tuesday, August 2, is “Night to Unite” (formerly “National Night Out”). It’s an annual event that brings neighbors together to get to know each other, talk about their neighborhoods, and connect with members of the community.

In our isolated, media-saturated culture, this event is more important than ever. Most of our neighbors are really nice. . . Well, except that one, right? The rest are amazing! Summer is a wonderful time of year. Don’t just stay at home with the blinds drawn and the air conditioning running. Get out there, bring your best potluck dish, and meet your neighbors. For added measure, take the Holy Spirit with you too.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” Go, not come! Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them. They won’t bite, I promise.

My family and I are hosting the Night to Unite event in our neighborhood this year. I can’t wait. We’re blocking off the road, playing games, and expecting some visits from local police and fire departments. Rumor has it, they may even turn on the fire hydrant. We’ll see.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Seriously. Even if you’re an introvert like me. . . you can do this! It’s fun. Ask God to bless your neighbors through you. Who knows? Maybe a spiritual conversation will take place and maybe, just maybe, a relationship will develop and God will change a life. . . all because YOU went to Night to Unite.

Northgate Church is passionate about helping people become who God purposed them to be.

Three Thoughts on Rest

One of the complaints I hear most often from people is, “I’m tired.” “How are you?” I’ll ask. They’ll respond, “So tired.”

I get that. I’m tired too, at least some of the time. With a church, a wife, and four kids. . . not to mention the dog (oh, the dog!), I have to be very deliberate about getting my rest.

Contrary to popular opinion, rest is a good thing. My grandmother used to fall asleep in her armchair every afternoon, but then later would deny it. She’d say, “I wasn’t sleeping. I just closed my eyes for a minute.” She WAS sleeping, but naps to her were a sign of weakness.

Our bodies need rest. Rest is a gift. It reminds us that we are not God and it forces us to relinquish control of our lives, if only for a few minutes.

The Bible talks a lot about rest. Here are just a few thoughts:

1.  Sabbath. One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy. Easier said than done, I realize, but even God himself rested on the seventh day in Genesis. If God needs a rest, so do we. If you’re not routinely taking a day for the Lord and the people in your life, you’re not only disobeying God, but you’re asking for trouble. Tired people do stupid things. Just ask any toddler.

The Sabbath isn’t for shopping or yard work or cleaning house. Those things can wait. The Sabbath is for resting, enjoying the Lord, and loving the people in your life. Take it! Make it holy. Set it apart. Stay up late the night before and get things done if you have to. After that, just rest. Your future depends on it. I do my very best to take off one full day a week for rest, renewal, and relaxation and I invite my family and staff to do the same.

2. Year of Jubilee. The Israelites took a rest every seven years. Slaves were freed. Debts were forgiven. Even traditional farming came to a screeching halt for an entire year. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

In our culture, we talk about the seven-year itch. Something happens at that seven year mark. Marriages grow cold. Jobs become boring. And while you can’t very likely take a whole year off, it is smart to take longer seasons of rest periodically. Without those periods, you run the risk of things falling apart. Life become routine and the eye starts to wander.

My wife and I go away at least once a year. Most of the time it’s local. Sometimes it’s farther away. It doesn’t matter. God shows up every time and renews our marriage. In the summers, I’m fortunate enough to take several weeks away from the daily grind of church work. That’s not always an easy thing for me to do, but I do it anyway. It’s a discipline. Those weeks off give space for God to do what he needs to do in me so I can go forward as a better pastor, husband, and dad.

3. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God made rest for our benefit more than his. Life can weigh us down and sometimes the only cure to a difficult situation, I’ve found, is rest. Don’t turn the Sabbath into a burden—something else to do. No, enjoy the Sabbath as a gift from God. He knows what you need. So, quit fighting him and let him give it to you.

Bottom line, if you’re tired, REST. Rest in the Lord. There’s no shame in taking a nap or just sitting around the house reading a book or even watching an uplifting movie. Drop the kids at mom and dad’s house. Breathe a little. Stop and smell the roses. Pray. That may be just what the doctor ordered.