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Last week I took my eldest to Bethel University in St. Paul (well Arden Hills) where moving in was truly an experience. The President of the University and his wife, Jay and Barb Barnes, greeted each and every new student as they drove into the campus (the same conversation some 500-600 times or so). Cars were unloaded in less than 2 minutes each – as the students were checked into the dorms. 

Bethel is a Christian college, loosely denominational – about 11% of the incoming class is from the denomination (BGC or Converge Worldwide), about 25% are Baptists of some sort, while the other 75% come from a whole range of other denominations. This is a beautiful campus and a thriving school.  Under the leadership and vision of a number of individuals including the last three presidents  (Carl Lundquist (’54-’82), George Brushaber (’82-’08), and now Jay Barnes) the school has expanded offerings and built an excellent academic reputation.  Among the sciences, which of course peak my interest, the Chemistry department is ACS accredited and the Physics department was featured in Physics Today as a thriving program. Math and Biology are also doing well. These departments have sent students to medical school and to top graduate schools from coast to coast – UC Berkeley to MIT.

As I was sitting listening to speeches and experiencing the welcome I started to ponder a few questions I would like to pose today.

What important roles do Christian Colleges and Universities play in our church today? Does education in a Christian environment promote or inhibit the growth of a mature faith?

What makes a Christian college effective?

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I have a few ideas here – and would like to get your input as well. It seems to me that an effective Christian college will have several key traits.

It will have an outreach within its community.

It will encourage its students to participate in kingdom activities.

It will be focused on shaping the future not placating the parents (or pastors).

It will educate not indoctrinate. It will be broadly Christian not dogmatically narrow. The purpose is not to teach the right answers or a narrow doctrinal position, but to equip students to grow in mature faith.

It will send its students out to participate in the mission of God. 

It will equip students to be a witness in all levels of our society.  This means high standards and quality programs.

What would you add to (or subtract from) the list? How can or should a Christian college participate in shaping the future as they equip 18-25 year olds? Do you have any examples of particularly effective approaches?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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