Why Christian education matters
As expected, the poor economy contributed to the closing of some K-12 schools. And, just a few months after the closing of Cascade College in Oregon, we mourn the loss of another higher education institution — Magnolia Bible College in Mississippi.
But the news isn’t all bad. And, frankly, we’re a little surprised. Despite our nation’s financial woes, enrollment on several Christian college campuses booms with record numbers. While the upswing is encouraging, it also brings challenges. With diminished resources, Christian colleges must learn to do more with less — for more students than usual.
We encourage faculty and staff on our Christian campuses to press on. There is something special about these schools — the combination of faith and learning, the community atmosphere — that not only gives students a quality education but also inspires them to take an active role in sharing God’s love with those around them.
Students at Christian campuses nationwide participate in service projects. Sometimes these projects fulfill requirements of class syllabi or social service club constitutions. But these activities often result in “unforced” volunteerism among students.
Student life offices make volunteering accessible from the time college freshmen spend their first hectic week on campus, setting the tone for their four (and sometimes five) years there. Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, for example, hosts hundreds of underprivileged elementary school children to fly kites with freshmen during its annual Earn Your Wings new student orientation. Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., recently hosted its 21st annual Step Forward Day, during which students worked with nonprofits across Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
In Tennessee, Lipscomb University hosted a recent health fair for Nashville’s Hispanic community. This month Freed-Hardeman University hosts the World Mission Workshop, which for decades has inspired future generations of missionaries.
School administrators aren’t the only ones initiating such efforts on Christian campuses. Students themselves are taking a leading role in helping others. They recognize the need, make the decisions and organize fundraisers. They notice students who have lost family members and send them encouraging cards. They hear about a professor’s wife who needs medical help and arrange a blood drive.
A feeling of working toward something greater pulled students at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., to recognize “The National Day of Encouragement.” Harding students raised $75,000 for a resident in need of a lung transplant. Oklahoma Christian’s Wishing Well, a nonprofit that brings water wells to those who have none, aired its documentary and was recognized for its efforts in New York City.
Christian students today see volunteering as more than a resume filler. It is an experience — a way to see the world. It is a way for students to feel like they are making a difference. It fills the spirit.
Partnering with local congregations or organizations including Let’s Start Talking, students travel to Africa, Europe, Australia and Central America to spread their influence over spring and summer breaks. Some students, after graduation, spend a few years as missionaries. This is not easy work.
Students must raise the necessary funds and perform manual labor, all in service to God and his people.
During the fund-raiser at Harding, Bryan Clifton, student association president, urged his fellow students to do more than just participate.
“Let’s make this a lifestyle,” he said.
A lifestyle is what these campuses provide. Though financial times look bleak, Christian students who sacrifice for others shine small lights of hope into the darkness. Let’s continue to support these works — with prayer and finances — to keep these fires burning.