Why Christian higher education?
Fifty years ago, one of the most predictable kitchen table conversations between Christian parents and their teenage children would be, “So, what Bible school are you thinking of attending?” Spending a year or even two was the expected norm for many Christian young adults. This did not presuppose entrance into vocational ministry; it was moreover a strategic initiative in grounding one’s faith.
Today, these conversations have been greatly diminished. Kitchen table conversations more frequently pivot around, “Will that college or university program get you a good job?” This question is certainly not unimportant, but the matter of faith grounding must be revisited in homes.
The faith of Canadian young adults is under fire. Christian young adults are leaving the faith in overwhelming numbers in an increasingly secularized culture. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada launched a study in 2018 called Renegotiating Faith, followed by the subsequent Competition for Character Education study of 2019. These studies tell us that the rate of church attendance is dropping among young adults and 1/3 of young adults who grew up as Christians have left their faith entirely.
The prayer of every Christian parent is that their children would develop a vibrant faith of their own. The heartbreak of watching a generation of young adults leave their faith after high school is a staggering problem for which we must find a solution.
How can we help young adults keep their faith?
Keeping the Faith
Christian colleges and universities have proven to be a critical tool in keeping Christian young adults engaged in their faith. The research points to specific experiences, relationships, and learning that helps young adults keep their faith. At Briercrest, our education is wholistic and made richer through:
- Our commitment to daily chapels
- Our commitment to biblical teaching through all areas of study
- Our commitment to mentorship structures in the classroom and in the dormitory
- Our commitment to weekly church involvement
Briercrest reaches students at a time of major life transition and prepares them academically, socially, and spiritually for life. Briercrest fosters a daily Christian discipleship community that young adults need as they explore identity and belief. We challenge them to pursue Christ, follow his Word, and serve as needed members of the Church.
Helping young adults keep the faith should certainly be the objective of parents and churches, and Christian higher education is a strategic ally in this cause. However, Christian higher education offers more than just grounding.
Christian colleges and universities may not offer as wide a variety of programs compared to their public counterparts, but often the quality matches and even surpasses that of public institutions (see our own student feedback and the recent NSSE report). This is in part due to smaller classes and direct teacher contact allowing for more personalized engagement. At Briercrest we have built our pedagogical priorities around the integration of three pillars: biblical/theological studies, liberal arts studies, and service skills. These emphases produce thoughtful individuals who are able to interpret the complexities of our world through a Christian worldview. They can think critically and navigate problems with a view to discovering solutions.
Christian higher education is committed to helping students discover their calling and serve the purposes of God. A strong foundational education that includes biblical studies and humanities will serve graduates well in whatever vocational context they find themselves in. However, many Christian schools, like Briercrest, offer programs leading directly into marketplace contexts as well. Further, as students engage in service learning opportunities, they develop service skills and are transformed from consumers to contributors.
While extracurricular opportunities are commonplace in all educational settings, faith-based institutions are able to harness these programs for added educational value and life preparation. A strong athletics program does more than build school spirit. Athletes who are led with a transformational model of coaching rather than a transactional model will draw significant life learnings from their involvement in athletics. Concerts, theatrical presentations, and recitals may showcase talent, but they also build confidence, provide opportunities to serve in one’s area of gifting and interest, and build cooperative abilities.
When you bring quality education, vocational preparation, and co-curricular opportunities together in an environment where teachers and staff care deeply and unity is a virtue, one of the natural byproducts is the development of life skills. The church and marketplace are anxious to fill their positions with people who have character, EQ (emotional intelligence), resilience, relational skills, and conflict resolution abilities. Employers are looking for people who can “play well” together. Christian higher education gives intentionality to the growth of life skills as this is foundational to following Christ. Education is more than just “knowing,” it involves “being.”
Indeed, this list could be expanded. Institutions like Briercrest provide a place where life-long friendships are forged, life partners are met, emotional scars are healed, hope is restored, meaning is identified, and life trajectories are launched. Parents and pastors would do well to encourage young adults to consider the incredible value of Christian higher education.
Learn more about the difference Christian higher education can make and what Briercrest is doing to disciple the next generation.