In his book No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton said, “We are all called by God to share in His life and in His kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the kingdom.”
On August 20, 2005, I drove onto the campus of Valley Forge Christian College in my red 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. Little did I realize what was to come. The professors would deepen my view of faith. My roommates would reveal how self-centered I could be. I would attend a conference in Washington, D.C., that would include meeting Mark Batterson and spending an hour in a U.S. senator’s office.
This was my experience at a Christian college. It may not be yours. By the same token, not everyone is Donald Miller, rediscovering their faith at a non-Christian institution like Reed College. Your time in college will have similarities to other people’s experiences, but your experience will be unique to you.
The college search allows Christians to recapture their sense of calling. God has wired each person with strengths and abilities. A college campus becomes a place for students to cultivate their calling in and out of the classroom.
Of course, this can happen at both a Christian and non-Christian college.
Problems arise when students in the recruitment process make generalizations of Christian and secular campuses. My friend Seth graduated from Penn State University with a degree in math education. He actively committed to a Christian organization on campus, made lifelong friends and even met his fiancée there. My friend Alex graduated from Liberty University with a degree in aeronautics. He made wonderful friends on campus, became a flight instructor and is getting married next summer.
What does this mean for you?
As an admissions professional at a college, I advise future students to visit both Christian and secular campuses. Ask graduates of both campuses about their experiences. One of the worst mistakes you can make is choosing a college without having all of the facts.
When you consider a college, you are ultimately deciding on the campus that will prepare you and give you opportunities to find your place in God’s Kingdom. In Christopher Unseth’s RELEVANTmagazine.com article “3 Reasons Christians Should Consider a Non-Christian College,” I agree with his underlying question, “Which type of college will nurture your faith the most?”
But on the other side of the spectrum, here are three reasons to consider a Christian college:
1. You will have the opportunity to seek God’s direction for your life among those who have been there before.
One of the most difficult practices for this generation of college students is listening, but maybe God speaks more often than we realize through other people. Students in a Christian college not only have godly professors as a resource, but also many upperclassmen who are just a little further along the road and can lend their tips and wisdom from experience. More than likely, you will face challenges at college that seem beyond your wisdom. These challenges could include changing your major, relationship issues, a crisis in faith and more. The environment of a Christian college can be a wonderful place to find answers to your life questions because you are surrounded by people who are listening to the voice of God along with you.
2. You will learn to humbly live out the Gospel among other Christians.
In his book The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen said, “Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.” Christians are not perfect. You are not perfect. Your time on campus will help you communicate the Gospel to roommates and classmates who may hurt and irritate you. Even more, you will become the benefactor of grace. Living with people is difficult, but as Nouwen points out, the love of God leads us to care about others while also drawing us closer to Him. A Christian college is simply a place full of imperfect people learning to follow Christ together.
3. You can seize opportunities to make a global and local impact.
One of the questions you can ask students from a prospective campus is, “Where are the best places to serve on and off campus?” Many Christian colleges sponsor missions trips, study abroad programs and urban ministry opportunities. And when you’re living in a rich community of faith while learning with others, you’ll be equipped well to take your learning off-campus and put it into practice. Christian campuses often empower students to make a difference by starting their own clubs and ministries. At Valley Forge Christian College, I am always amazed at how students are making a difference. Two students began selling their art pieces with the proceeds going toward an organization that frees young women from prostitution. Three other students went to Korea last summer to teach English. I could go on and on, but ultimately how you want to make a difference while you are in college is up to you. Finding a campus that shares your passion is a vital part of your experience. Attending college is one of the most significant times of your life. It is a time when God will begin revealing to you who He has called you to be. A Christian college can be a marvelous place to go through this process.