Creating Space for Good Conversations
Shirley V. Hoogstra
Since 1998, the CCCU has taken time every four years to convene its members for an International Forum. While we host gatherings for your key campus leaders every year, this large gathering of over 1,200 people achieves three key CCCU association goals: reaffirming and celebrating our commitment to Jesus as Lord of all; bringing together speakers and resources that can happen only because the size of the event; and reminding us all that Christian higher education is joyful and vibrant even amidst challenges and threats. I am grateful for the leadership of my predecessors who had the vision to gather Christian higher education professionals from around the world.
This year, the International Forum took on the thorniest problems facing Christian higher education. It also created a space for practitioners to share their best practices with their peers and, through their courage and innovation, encouraged others to be bold. The CCCU’s endeavors are always surrounded by worship because, as Christians, we believe God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.
For this issue of Advance, our editorial team selected content that continues the conversations that were started at the Forum. The content from the gathering was so rich that we knew that getting it into print will serve you and your teams in numerous ways. These articles are useful for professional development on your campus teams — they are short and readable, so you could pick one a week to read, which could lead to deeper conversations. The articles are also useful for board development, as they showcase some of the topics that are trending in Christian higher education. They could also serve to jumpstart an interactive small group discussion.
Because Christ followers have less fear and more courage, one of the greatest values of Christian higher education is our ability to foster conversations on difficult topics. In fact, the National Survey of Student Engagement found that Christian college students feel that they have the most freedom to talk about the most issues. Other institutions have a sense that there is a “right” answer and that trying to present a different perspective could cause painful rejection. But our campus communities are centered on a world-changing question: What does Jesus require of us? Jesus was a clear-thinking, bold, counter-cultural role model who promised to never leave us or forsake us. It is on this Christ, the solid rock, we stand.
That is why I love Christian higher education. We develop campus communities where Christian faculty and staff integrate biblical truth throughout the academic enterprise. We hold fast to the moral and spiritual formation of students while providing academic rigor. At our best, we graduate students who act for the wellbeing of the world out of a love for Jesus Christ at a cost to themselves.
And how is it that these graduates “think of others more highly than themselves” (Philippians 2:3)? It’s because they’ve witnessed you, their campus leaders, serving with prayerful humility and deep orthodox faith. It’s because they’ve engaged in rigorous conversations in the classroom with faculty, honing their academic skills even as they better understand how their faith can make a difference in their field.
The CCCU is committed to be a “best in class” association because we admire and respect our campuses so much. We are in this work together.