3 Reasons Christians Should Consider a Christian College

An admissions counselor counts the benefit of learning in a community of faith.

In his book No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton said, “We are all called by God to share in His life and in His kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the kingdom.”

On August 20, 2005, I drove onto the campus of Valley Forge Christian College in my red 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. Little did I realize what was to come. The professors would deepen my view of faith. My roommates would reveal how self-centered I could be. I would attend a conference in Washington, D.C., that would include meeting Mark Batterson and spending an hour in a U.S. senator’s office.

This was my experience at a Christian college. It may not be yours. By the same token, not everyone is Donald Miller, rediscovering their faith at a non-Christian institution like Reed College. Your time in college will have similarities to other people’s experiences, but your experience will be unique to you.

The college search allows Christians to recapture their sense of calling. God has wired each person with strengths and abilities. A college campus becomes a place for students to cultivate their calling in and out of the classroom.

A college campus becomes a place for students to cultivate their calling in and out of the classroom.

Of course, this can happen at both a Christian and non-Christian college.

Problems arise when students in the recruitment process make generalizations of Christian and secular campuses. My friend Seth graduated from Penn State University with a degree in math education. He actively committed to a Christian organization on campus, made lifelong friends and even met his fiancée there. My friend Alex graduated from Liberty University with a degree in aeronautics. He made wonderful friends on campus, became a flight instructor and is getting married next summer.

What does this mean for you?

As an admissions professional at a college, I advise future students to visit both Christian and secular campuses. Ask graduates of both campuses about their experiences. One of the worst mistakes you can make is choosing a college without having all of the facts.

When you consider a college, you are ultimately deciding on the campus that will prepare you and give you opportunities to find your place in God’s Kingdom. In Christopher Unseth’s RELEVANTmagazine.com article, “3 Reasons Christians Should Consider a Non-Christian College,” I agree with his underlying question, “Which type of college will nurture your faith the most?”

But on the other side of the spectrum, here are three reasons to consider a Christian college:

1. You will have the opportunity to seek God’s direction for your life among those who have been there before.

One of the most difficult practices for this generation of college students is listening, but maybe God speaks more often than we realize through other people. Students in a Christian college not only have godly professors as a resource, but also many upperclassman who are just a little further along the road and can lend their tips and wisdom from experience. More than likely, you will face challenges at college that seem beyond your wisdom. These challenges could include changing your major, relationship issues, a crisis in faith and more. The environment of a Christian college can be a wonderful place to find answers to your life questions because you are surrounded by people who are listening to the voice of God along with you.

2. You will learn to humbly live out the Gospel among other Christians.

When you’re living in a rich community of faith while learning with others, you’ll be equipped well to take your learning off-campus and put it into practice.

In his book The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen said, “Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.”

Christians are not perfect. You are not perfect. Your time on campus will help you communicate the Gospel to roommates and classmates who may hurt and irritate you. Even more, you will become the benefactor of grace. Living with people is difficult, but as Nouwen points out, the love of God leads us to care about others while also drawing us closer to Him. A Christian college is simply a place full of imperfect people learning to follow Christ together.

3. You can seize opportunities to make a global and local impact.

One of the questions you can ask students from a prospective campus is, “Where are the best places to serve on and off campus?” Many Christian colleges sponsor missions trips, study abroad programs and urban ministry opportunities. And when you’re living in a rich community of faith while learning with others, you’ll be equipped well to take your learning off-campus and put it into practice.

Christian campuses often empower students to make a difference by starting their own clubs and ministries. At Valley Forge Christian College, I am always amazed at how students are making a difference. Two students began selling their art pieces with the proceeds going toward an organization that frees young women from prostitution. Three other students went to Korea last summer to teach English. I could go on and on, but ultimately how you want to make a difference while you are in college is up to you. Finding a campus that shares your passion is a vital part of your experience.

Attending college is one of the most significant times of your life. It is a time when God will begin revealing to you who He has called you to be. A Christian college can be a marvelous place to go through this process.

Top Comments

Corey Stone

11

Corey Stone commented…

How long will we continue to isolate ourselves from the world? Go to a normal college and make an impact. Lord knows our world's "secular" colleges need it.

trevor

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trevor commented…

You can pretty easily sum up the advantages of attending a Christian University or College, and maybe this article by saying "It's more comfortable". That may seem harsh... But I think it rings true. Which I think in almost all cases is a generally negative thing... Of course it always depends. For example, if you actually plan on going into the ministry, a Christian school is the way to go! Also, for many, just moving out of their home and going to any college is a very big step. Not to pick on the home schoolers... But many (not all.. Don't want anyone to turn this into a debate about homeschooling. I get it, you home schooled, and are well socially adjusted) finish high school, and aren't well socially adjusted, have maybe been a little sheltered, or just a little shy. I've known some folks like this, and a regular university was just too much too fast. It either crushed them and they wanted to come home, or were exposed to too much, too fast, and it overwhelmed their faith and worldview. So for many, a Christian school is the right step, because at 18, they still aren't quite ready to face the "real world" or some of the challenges it will bring to their faith.

But for most... Going to a school where your beliefs are challenged, and you come up against worldviews that aren't your own, worldviews that are exhibited by the people who actually hold them (not worldviews TAUGHT about by people who don't) is a very good thing, and it's the perfect environment for a gospel believing Christian. I think you learn to love people differently, and you come into contact with SO MANY people that are searching. People are searching in some ways at Christian schools too, but it's not in the same way, or they wouldn't be there. It's also a safer place to learn to get along with folks who believe differently than you (versus after college in the workplace). Classes end. Semesters end. School ends. Ideally, you want sustainability in a career, and if you get there without learning to get along well with the rest of the world, then it's gonna be tough, because there's nowhere to go. This is it. In most workplaces, it isn't appropriate to have conversations about beliefs, or openly disagree, or question... Just have to learn to love people, and get along with them in the work place. It's not going to be all teenagers and 20 somethings. It's going to be people of every age and experience. I think a "secular school" lets you learn to adapt to this better than a "christian school".

13 Comments

Liz

1

Liz commented…

Some themes I'm seeing in the other comments are that Christian schools are isolating, student's beliefs are not challenged, and it is not like the "real world." I'd like to offer a different perspective. I attended a Christian college and served for two years with a Christian relief and development organization in India after graduating. I went to public school growing up and I recently completed a master's degree at a secular university so I also have experience in secular schools as well.

My experience in college changed my life and my faith. My faith was challenged because I encountered new perspectives and beliefs from other faithful Christians. I may not have been as receptive to changing my beliefs if I had been in a secular school, but when I saw that committed Christians had different views than what I believed, I had to re-examine what I believed, look deeper into the Bible, and ask more questions. I was fortunate to have several mentors whose guidance was formative in my life. It was also a time of healing in my life as I learned to open up to people and that people could love me even when they saw my imperfections.

I would also challenge the idea that there is no one searching at Christian schools. I knew people who were struggling and questioning and looking for answers. It's easy at a Christian school for people to look like they follow Jesus even when they really don't - there are some powerful opportunities to minister into the lives of others.

I'm not trying to say that Christian schools are better than secular schools. Both offer opportunities to grow in faith and serve others. I just want to point out that there are good reasons to go to a Christian school and not everyone who goes to a Christian school is trying to isolate themselves from the world. For me, it was the opposite. Going to a Christian college was formative in preparing me to go out into the "real world" and serve and witness to the love of Christ.

Kimberly DeWees

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Kimberly DeWees commented…

Some of the comments on this article criticize Christian colleges as a place where Christians just live in a bubble. As someone who has transferred in to a Christian college from community college, and spent all of K-12 in the public school system, Christiam college can be a relief and a place for growth. Being surrounded by people who have similar beliefs allows you to dig deeper into the issues that arise as you go about trying to live out your faith. You have an opportunity to learn from your teachers and other students. You're not just on the defense or you're not having to explain something from square one. That being said, I value the experience I had with secular education because of the exposure I had to different beliefs and the way it challenged mine. Not everyone who goes to a Christian college is just continuing life in the bubble.

Peter Englert

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Peter Englert commented…

Thank you so much for your comments and insights on this issue. When it comes to higher education, there are many strong opinions. In my response and the hope of this article is to not box students into one option. It is very important that students make decisions on attending college based on their goals and values. I would also challenge the notion of comfort at a Christian college. Many student can find themselves part of Christian organizations on secular campuses isolated themselves from others. No matter what campus a student attends they are empowered with the responsibility to broaden their horizons. Giving advice to a student on choosing a college is a solemn life altering decision. Above all, we must remember that God uniquely works in individuals' lives.

Shawn

1

Shawn commented…

As someone who is about to graduate from a Christian college, I think there is one point being missed. I will admit, I really appreciate the faith aspect of the university I attend. I have a feeling that the level of education mixed with the faith aspect makes it a more holistic and well rounded education. BUT, these were NOT things I appreciated going into this school. In fact, my faith was hardly in tact at the beginning.

What I think should be looked at heavily, which I have not seen mentioned here is the quality of the degree program in which you may apply. For me, the Christian university I attend has the best all around communications program in the metroplex in which I live and offered a program that would work well with my lifestyle. For many Christians, it is not always about insulation or being part of a faith bubble - it is about the quality of the program and education one may be interested in.

Jessica Norwood

1

Jessica Norwood commented…

I recently graduated from a christian university and found that it was more challenging than the secular university I am attending for graduate school. At a secular university I rarely discuss my beliefs with anyone. If I do get a chance to discuss it is often with a closer friend. At my Christian university our faith was openly discussed in all classes. I found that even in my non-religion classes (psych 101 or even my math classes) I could openly discuss my beliefs with anyone around me. It was always a conversation open for discussion, especially with the professors. As for meeting people with little or no faith; our university (and many others like it) went out of its way to retrieve people from other nations. Out athletic departments recruited people of any religion. And we had a widely diverse international student group. I had wonderful conversations as an undergraduate. Now, at a secular university it's all business. My cohorts don't concern themselves with my personal beliefs. It's don't ask, don't tell.

If anyone asked I would strongly advise them to consider a Christian University-but to also consider the degree program. My school had wonderful pre-med, psychology and liberal arts programs but for someone considering a technology based career my school would not have been the best choice. It's also important to consider the beliefs of the school. There are many schools who began as faith based organizations but have sort of grown out of it.

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