Is Christ-Centered Higher Education Worth It?
June 6, 2010
“The Christ-centered college is that last hope for the Church in America.” I heard Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate, say these words at a meeting in Washington several years ago. Walking the halls of power in Washington, Halverson saw many who professed to follow Christ but few who would live out that commitment in how they determined policy for the nation. The truly Christ-centered college or university provides the world with men and women who can think Christianly about their lives, society and all of humanity.
The choices for higher education are overwhelming. With over 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States — plus on-line programs, YouTube Edu, iTunes U, Edufire, and countless more -after high school opportunities have exploded into a dizzying array of possibilities.
So when a family chooses a “Christian” college, they do so with the expectation that it will continue the spiritual training that is a part of their family. Sometimes, though, these choices are met with confusion and concern. Parents are not always certain what makes a college “Christian” and if it is worth the cost. Let’s see if we can clear away the fog.
What is a Christ-centered education?
I often share with students that a University cannot be Christian, only people can. A student body, staff and faculty dedicated to a Christ-centered mission make a school Christian.
Christ-centered schools help students explore and affirm their faith during a critical period of their lives. Christ-centered schools have a unique public mission that is distinctly focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Most of them have a hiring policy that requires full-time faculty to profess a commitment to Jesus Christ through personal faith and practice.
Contrary to what many think, the curriculum does not only teach “the biblical view” of each subject. Rather, students learn to master English, Mathematics, History, Psychology or Business as they would at any college. Nationally normed graduate exams show that Christian college grads excel. But the added feature is that a biblical perspective is seen as the foundation of all truth and practice. Students take classes in biblical studies and opportunities for worship and ministry are front and center. The goal is to fully educate – not indoctrinate – so that students know not only what Christians believe and why but also what others believe.
The Christ-centered school makes no apologies for its commitment to a Christian worldview and provides an education that rivals the non-religious institutions. Look at the ratings of colleges and universities from U.S.News and World Report, Forbes, or The Princeton Review. Many Christ-centered schools consistently outrank well-know secular schools. Job placement for graduates is high and student satisfaction at these schools is always near the top.
Is a Christ-centered education worth the investment?
A Christ-centered education intentionally moves students to think, live and work as a Christian. Never has our world needed a generation of young people to embrace these commitments.
Thinking as a Christian
I was having lunch with a fellow administrator from a college in another state. We were discussing the joys of engaging students in the educational process. “I like helping them in their search for truth,” I said to him. His face dropped to a horrified expression. “Truth?” he said. “We can’t use that word on our campus. It’s too divisive.”
Divisive? Truth is the great unifier of education – at least it is supposed to be. After all, the term “university” (literally, “turned into one; whole, entire”) points to the unifying pursuit of truth. In today’s postmodern world, affirming the reality of moral and theological truth breathes hope into a culture of despair.
Living as a Christian
Paul tells Timothy that a goal of his instruction is “love from pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Helping students learn to apply Christian truth to life – personal, family, societal, and global – is the ultimate goal of the Christ-centered college.
As a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, graduates extend the reach of their influence beyond their family and job to be salt and light in a world that is dark and unsavory. They know that no matter what vocation they choose, Christ intends to use them in ways that make a positive difference in world.
Working as a Christian
Most Christ-centered colleges have excellent placement rates for their graduates. The reputation of the values these colleges instill in graduates is growing rapidly. Several years ago, an official in the White House once told me that they like to hire Christian college graduates. Why? “Because they work harder and we can trust them,” she said.
This reminds me of the biblical story of Daniel and his friends, whom the Babylonian King found ten times better than all of the others in the whole kingdom (Daniel 1:20). Their knowledge, their integrity and their firm commitment to God gave them an advantage over the others. Producing graduates with these same character qualities is the continuing vision of Christ-centered colleges.
Choosing a Christ-centered college
As a parent or student you are likely weighing your options to determine what will provide the best preparation for a successful career while minimizing tuition cost and post-graduation debt.
Remember that college life is an incubator for post-adolescents – a time when young adults lay the foundation for the rest of their lives. College provides not only knowledge and training for a career but also a social and moral environment where personal choices significantly alter the trajectory of the student’s life. While their families have given them roots, the beliefs, values and behaviors they will adopt for the rest of their lives are usually affirmed during their college years.
Most Christian families choose to send their son or daughter to a secular or state university, encouraging them to get involved in church and campus ministry programs that may be available. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students are unprepared for the faith challenges that occur in the classroom and in the dorm room. Studies have shown that over eighty per cent of students who are professing Christians when they enter college no longer are even attending a church by the time they graduate. Going to a Christian high school did not seem to make any difference in the study’s findings.
I have taken Richard Halvorsen’s admonition to heart. If the Christ-centered college does not equip the next generation to engage the culture with the mind and heart of Christ, then who will?
Why Christ Centered Higher Education?