By David Fincher
I have met innumerable donors, volunteers, lifelong ministers, and other Christian leaders who have this in common: They attended a Christian college planning to stay only for a year, and the experience changed their lives for the better.
Several of these individuals stuck to their original plan and switched to a secular university after a year, but many others—to their surprise—stayed and earned a four-year degree. Among that latter group, some pursued ministry as a career and others did not. The comments I consistently hear from them, however, is that the decision to attend a Christian college had many positive effects.
We—as parents, grandparents, and ministry leaders—can influence countless individuals within our families and congregations to attend a Christian college. These students don’t all need to earn a degree or enter the ministry, but regardless of their future plans, they all must take important steps of maturity that Christian colleges are uniquely able to provide.
THE 10 REASONS
Here are 10 reasons for encouraging your loved one to commit to attending a Christian institution for at least one year. The first five focus on spiritual maturity and the last five involve personal maturity.
1. Every believer needs biblical confidence as the basis of a faithful life. A Christian college’s curriculum and environment allow students to dive deep into Scripture. Digging into the Bible’s big picture, historical evidence, and practical applications helps a student become confident that there are good answers to every question they may have or face. It also equips them to share the truth of God’s Word.
2. A Christian needs ethical coherence to present a consistent witness when facing complex moral issues. The code of conduct and atmosphere of accountability at a Christian college provide a system in which students can learn to be salt and light. Dialogue with professors and personal research help crystalize a student’s positions on important issues to counter the fractured morality of the modern world.
3. There’s no better way to learn financial stewardship than as a poor college student. (Remember, Jesus taught his disciples they needed to be “faithful with a little.”) Most Christian church colleges are affordable, especially when considering financial aid that is available. Paying for college itself is a good stewardship practice, as is getting a job, saving for the next semester, stretching weekend meal money, and making other financial decisions. Sharing with a roommate in need starts a lifelong habit of generous benevolence. Additionally, meeting ministers and missionaries highlights giving to God’s kingdom.
4. Attending a Christian college is a great way to witness the many styles of local churches within our movement. Visiting our churches is the best way to appreciate their diverse flavors. Whether a student grew up in a small church or megachurch, they need to acquaint themselves with other types of congregations. Christian colleges expose students to service opportunities, internship requirements, and promotional visits that involve many different churches. In four years of college, I visited more than 50 Christian churches in 10 states while singing, preaching, or recruiting. Each church visit reveals ministry examples to remember for the future.
5. Christian colleges are ideal settings to learn of the many outstanding specialized ministries that help define our movement. Many young adults are first exposed to these regional and national organizations through their Christian college experience. Students can become more motivated to serve the Lord when they learn how our people have joined forces to help orphaned children, wayward teenagers, forgotten prisoners, hurting refugees, struggling addicts, single moms, trafficked girls, and many others. These ministries recruit Christian college students to become their future workers and leaders. Committing as little as one day of service to such an organization can help instill passion and purpose in a student that can help define their life.
6. Christian colleges feature mature adults who serve as models for younger Christians. As Albert Bandura’s social learning theory demonstrated, students will become like the adults to whom they are exposed. There is no better place for students to observe dozens of quality Christian adults than among the faculty and staff of a Christian college. Many students work professionally on campus alongside these role models. Every student can learn what a faithful spouse, committed parent, and satisfied single adult looks like. The family dynamics, work ethics, and gracious responses of mature leaders set an example for students to grow into.
7. A Christ-centered setting is the ideal place for young adults to practice resolving interpersonal conflicts. A residence hall quickly reveals various personality types, communication styles, and personal preferences. Resolving disagreements and creating friendships is a skill that can be crafted over an extended time in the presence of others. In an environment where students must share three meals a day plus living space (including a bathroom), conflict is inevitable. But Christian colleges encourage students to consider others more highly than themselves and to pursue peace in ways that can be replicated in family and church relationships.
8. A small Christian college challenges young adults to use their giftedness in responsible leadership. In addition to campus jobs, students grow into other responsible roles: resident assistant, camp team leader, sports team captain, mission trip leader, and many others. The environment of leading peers with limited risks offers space for students to stretch their wings. Positive affirmation or constructive criticism clarifies their calling and plans. This leads to confidence and drives future leadership aspirations.
9. A Christian college is a safer setting than a secular school, particularly for students from small towns or churches whose cultural experiences may be limited. Within the first year, students will hear the stories of new friends from different ethnic groups. They will experience the food and culture of various locations. They will probably be invited to an inner-city service project and on an international mission trip. A student who leaves the comfort zone of home becomes an adult who can obediently follow God’s leading into an unknown destination.
10. All of the aforementioned reasons serve to help students successfully chart the course of their adult lives. A major decision a college-age student is likely to face is finding a spouse. Though this is often ridiculed as a bad reason to attend college, research shows that most people who attend college find a future spouse there. Christian college students who possess similar values and priorities are more likely to have compatible and enduring marriages. Additionally, students will develop other lifelong friendships with people who can be relied on in good times and bad.
MORE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE VALUES
Don’t discourage students from attending a Christian college. It is undeniable the Christian college experience can shape students’ spiritual and personal maturity in many valuable and unique ways. In light of the steady complaints about the immaturity of young adults today, let’s encourage Christian college as a meaningful option!
For those who have always been in the church, Christian college fertilizes and waters the seeds that were planted in children’s church, youth group, and summer camp. For spiritual newcomers, Christian college helps pull the weeds, remove the thorns, and replant new seeds that will bear the fruit of righteousness (Ephesians 1:11).
In the past, church leaders and parents encouraged their students to spend at least a year away from home at one of our sister schools, with no pressure to earn a degree or enter the ministry. Many of those young people followed that prompting, which forever changed their lives. I believe students today would respond positively to such advice. It is up to us to encourage the ones God has given us the potential to influence.
Dr. David Fincher serves as president of Central Christian College of the Bible (Moberly, Mo.) and the Christian Church Leadership Foundation (in Cincinnati).