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A wall in the presidential offices at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., shows photos of the university's students.
Presidential offices at Freed-Hardeman University | Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Why attend a Christian university? Here’s an answer you weren’t expecting.

HENDERSON, Tenn. — Far too many of us think that “Christian education” means you have to sacrifice some of your education to get the Christian element.

Erik Tryggestad

Inside Story | Erik Tryggestad

And far too many of us think that Christian campuses are shelters that hinder us from preparing for life in the real world. 

I got to talk about these issues with President David Shannon during my visit to Freed-Hardeman University. 

This year the university, which is associated with Churches of Christ, celebrates its 150th anniversary (more on that in a future issue). The school also has a record-breaking of enrollment of 2,117 students, about 83 percent of whom come from our fellowship.

Milton Sewell, a former FHU president and current trustee of The Christian Chronicle, invited me to FHU to see some friends of mine from FACE: French African Christian Education. It was great catching up with George Akpabli, Ed Jones and Bill Morgan, to name a few. 

I was privileged to read Scripture during chapel before Akpabli talked about the ministry training he does in Benin and across West Africa.

Sewell and his wife, Laurel, were my gracious hosts. (Yes, we ate at Jacks Creek B-B-Q. Divine!) I got to see a Lipscomb classmate of mine who now teaches at FHU and a young lady I met while writing a “Churches That Work” feature on the Long Island Church of Christ in New York in 2014. (She can’t be old enough for college.)


FHU’s current president comes from another congregation we profiled in “Churches That Work” — the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ in Middle Tennessee. David Shannon was the preacher for the church when Bobby Ross Jr. wrote about it in 2012. Shannon took on the presidency of FHU in fall 2017. 

As a preacher, he has seen church members grapple with the decision of where to send their kids after high school. It’s not easy. College is expensive. And Christian colleges seem even more expensive (though my friends in admissions could show you some numbers that might surprise you). 

As Shannon visits churches, he talks about FHU’s commitment to God’s Word. That doesn’t surprise anyone. 

He also talks about the school’s high acceptance rate into post-grad programs — and how its nursing students consistently score well above the national average on licensing exams.

That causes jaws to drop. 

That’s right. A big reason to choose a Christian university is because of its academic standards — not in spite of them.

Students file into Loyd Auditorium for daily chapel.

Students file into Loyd Auditorium for daily chapel.

I was blessed immensely by my undergraduate days at a Christian university. They prepared me — academically and spiritually — to succeed as a grad student at a state university and to serve in campus ministry.

It’s time for our churches to renew our commitment to Christian education. Shannon suggested that churches select a Christian university or a nearby campus ministry — or both — and support them with our time and our dollars. I think that’s a noble goal.

Related: He leads me beside Stillwater

Christian universities don’t prepare you for the real world; they are the real world. Let’s make sure they remain beacons of light in a world that eschews knowledge.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @eriktryggestad.

Filed under: benefits of Christian universities Christian education Christian universities Churches of Christ David Shannon higher education Insight Opinion support Christian education Top Stories

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