Some students are sent to Christian colleges, some are sentenced there. Some choose a Christian college or university and absorb hefty loans to finance their education. Their reasons are myriad for attending a Christ-centered institution of higher learning. Many enter these schools with lofty expectations of building friendships and spiritual fitness within a strong Christian community.
However, if you want to achieve certain outcomes, whether you attend Christian College or Heathen University or anywhere on the spiritual spectrum, you’ve got to be invested in the work. And make no mistake, college is work: reading volumes, cranking out papers, taking leadership roles, learning to share a shower with a whole queue of strangers.
Some students are mistaken in thinking this is the work of the institution to do for them. If you are considering applying to a Christian college/university or are already enrolled in one, here are 3 things you should not expect from your school:
Christian universities foster conservatism. Period.
I teach at a small Christian university in the South. Surely you are envisioning me in my prairie skirt and lace collar blouse, hauling my anti-evolutionist texts like an Anne of Green Gables school marm, rattling off an impassioned lecture to a class of repressed puppet students who profess to love Jesus.
Now you can go ahead and dash those stereotypes, except for the students, of whom many in my classes do profess to love Jesus. Indeed, I find the mission-mindedness of my wonderful students, their discipline in time management and studying, and the good measure of fun they have to be so refreshing.
Christian colleges and universities do not offer conservatism as an academic byproduct of their education. They do not manufacture diplomas with degrees in Conservatist Studies. On a political spectrum, students at Christian colleges and universities may lean a little farther right of center. But ideologically, you may be surprised at how moderate or liberal students at a Christian school can be. If anything, a Christian college may be a safer haven to question beliefs than the standard liberal arts college. Rather than accepting ideas blindly, I see my students grapple and search. I like to believe they feel empowered to do so by a community with a collective aim: to search for the authentic heart of Jesus.
A spouse is a souvenir on par with a diploma
Christian colleges and universities have a storied reputation as mating grounds. “Look left, look right, your future spouse may be in sight,” is the resounding folly of orientation at colleges known for producing (often inadvertently) results better than e-Harmony.
If you are bound for Christian higher learning with the end goal of a marriage partner, the best you might be is disappointed; the worst you might be is seriously deprived.
God ordains some beautiful relationships and commitments at appointed times in our lives. College, for many of us, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Marriage is also something we hope to only do once. If marriage and college run in tandem for you, may God richly bless you in both.
Being a full-time student and in a committed relationship or as a full-time husband or wife can be a very demanding juggle, though. It can also cut you off from some meaningful relationships with your peers and severely limit your ability to go full-on with certain activities, or just to take a weekend camping trip with friends.
Not to mention, if you are so busy searching for the love of your life, your tuition dollars might have been better spent on ChristianMingle.com
Your tools will be sharpened simply by being in the tool shed.
You can put on a superhero cape, but it will not enable you to fly. You may live in a garage, but it doesn’t make you a car. Choose the metaphor that works for you. Whatever you do, don’t assume that by virtue of attending a Christian college, you will simply become more virtuous.
In fact, to presume a life of faith simply by immersion in a “faith-filled” place presumes too much. One, that the place is full of faith and two, that you can become immersed in the faith of a place.
I have encountered students, faculty, and staff who became frustrated--to the point of leaving the university--by the high standards they expected a Christian institution to uphold, but which they found lacking. What a disappointment for them to walk away feeling emptied rather than full. Of course, a spiritual atmosphere is achieved by many contributing to it. I daresay it can be found on campuses other than those dedicated in name and deed to the cause of Christ. See also:
Like all relationships, the walk with Christ is a personal one. It requires dedication and open-heartedness. It cannot be outsourced to an administration that plans a Kingdom-focused curriculum. It cannot be attained simply by rote attendance of worships and spiritual talks. After all, some of the greatest testimonies of found faith derive from the most unlikely of places: a jail cell, an ER waiting room, on the back of a motorcycle.
God reminds us that when we seek him with our whole heart, we will find him. To those who ponder acceptances from colleges, and to those who are bound for school as the rising Class of ‘17, may you continue to seek God wholeheartedly, wherever you are.