Students Need Practical Skills Along with Big Ideas

By Jennifer Johnson

Higher education is not known for its pragmatism. For every course in biology basics there’s another in “The Science of Superheroes” (University of California, Irvine). For every Spanish 101 there’s “Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond” (University of Texas at Austin). For every fundamentals of accounting, there’s “Street-Fighting Mathematics” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

And that’s OK. As the cliché goes, part of being educated is “learning how to learn.” There’s value in interacting with ideas simply for the sake of enrichment, even without any immediate vocational payoff.

07_4C_Nebraska1_JNBut Dave Miller at Nebraska Christian College also makes a good point; many students are graduating from expensive Bible college programs only to leave ministry careers a few years later. When a young guy is preaching every Sunday, leading a small group or six, hiring staff, managing a building project, fighting worship wars, and staying up all night at the youth lock-in, his undergrad class on elementary Greek is not what keeps him going.

The Institute at NCC combines the best of both worlds, requiring students to maintain a solid GPA in course work that includes theology, exegesis, and history while also exposing them to practitioners, ideas, and encouragement. At graduation they’ll have not only the biblical foundation for ministry, but also the beginnings of a personal approach—and maybe even a job offer.

I certainly value the conceptual—I’m considering going back for my master’s in humanities, for Heaven’s sake. But I’m also holding onto my copies of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and Small Business for Dummies. Few of us can (or want to) exist in the academy, and we all need practical skills in addition to big ideas.

I want my minister to understand apologetics and philosophy, but I also want him to manage change, manage a staff, and manage his own growth. I’m all for learning how to learn, but kudos to Nebraska Christian and our other schools that are also helping students learn to do.

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