How Colleges Are Coping
By Darrel Rowland
With more non-Restoration Movement students added to the growing number from Christian churches/churches of Christ “who are relatively disconnected from key biblical teachings on salvation and the Christian walk,” Florida Christian College, south of Orlando, put key Bible and apologetics courses earlier in the educational process, says President William K. Behrman. “The key concern is how the institution ministers to those students. We put professors skilled at teaching key beliefs in those courses.”
As at several institutions, the increasing proportion of non-Restoration Movement students at Manhattan Christian College in eastern Kansas stems mostly from growing interest in online programs, where only about a third come from churches in the fellowship, compared with about 60 percent in the traditional student body, said Robin Scott, chairman of the board. “As long as Manhattan Christian College is true to biblical standards in faith and practice, nothing could be more invigorating than students of all backgrounds having a conversation about their faith.”
While Milligan College in eastern Tennessee now gets about two-thirds of its enrollment from outside the Christian church, national figures show that’s still much higher than most religiously affiliated institutions, President Bill Greer said. “We are proud of and committed to our Restoration Movement roots. But we don’t view anyone as insiders or outsiders. Our spirit of unity and commitment to New Testament Christianity actually makes us a welcome learning environment for students from a variety of Christian denominations, and we think that’s a good thing.”
David Hamilton, Milligan’s chairman of the board, added, “Our commitment to the Restoration Movement is not defined purely by a percentage of the student body, but instead through our mission, the education we provide, and the way we connect with and serve our churches.”
Cincinnati Christian University has not let up in its push to attract students from the brotherhood, said President David Faust. “On the contrary, we are doing everything we can think of to enroll them, including implementing a new Partner Church program that provides generous scholarships for students from congregations that support CCU. At the same time, however, students from other church groups like the fact that CCU offers a quality academic environment where faith in Christ is built up, not torn down.”
In contrast with many, since the fall of 2007 Central Christian College of the Bible in mid-Missouri has intentionally sought to increase the percentage of students from Christian church/church of Christ congregations. The college shifted recruiting strategies and personnel, acceptance qualifications, and marketing. The result: an increase for seven straight semesters, from 50.6 percent of the student body in 2007 to 67 percent in spring 2011. “Rather than broadening programs or expanding our mission, we have chosen to return to our heritage and continue to prepare students for vocational leadership ministry,” said President Ron Oakes.
Darrel Rowland is an adult Bible fellowship teacher at Worthington (Ohio) Christian Church and public affairs editor of The Columbus Dispatch.