The World-Changing Work of Educating Christian Students

The World-Changing Work of Educating Christian Students

Fall 2023

Shirley V. Hoogstra

I believe that Christian higher education is an antidote to the world’s cultural decline. It prepares the kinds of leaders we need for the future. The challenge for Christian higher education is to have the curriculum that meets the enormous responsibility. That is why the CCCU is a champion for the integration of faith and learning that is happening on our campuses. The last issue of CCCU’s Advance addressed the “why” of the integration of faith and learning; in this fall issue, the CCCU addresses the “how” of this topic. Together, these issues are meant to be both an encouragement and a resource for campus leaders and boards of trustees, as well as a tool for explaining to the larger world the key distinctives of Christian higher education.

But let’s take a step back. When we think about the future of our world, what do we worry about? As a parent and grandparent, I am worried about who will influence our children and who will be the future leaders in a society that is broken and bruised. Will it be the TikTok influencer who has the most sway over future generations? The Hollywood celebrity? The professional athlete? Or will it be parents, pastors, professors, and peers who share the love of Jesus? It is not passé, old fashioned, or out of touch to think that the influencers who matter most to the next generation will and should be the parents, pastors, professors, and peers who claim Jesus is Lord.

This issue of Advance offers powerful examples of the extraordinary professors who are available to mentor and teach the Christian college student of today. Christian colleges and universities create communities that enable the world’s flourishing because of who they employ (professors and staff), because of who leads them (the presidents), and ultimately because of who attends them (the students). The result is that Christian higher education — like a little bit of yeast in a large batch of dough — is making an outsized difference in the world.

What happens at a Christian college is special. The distinction of a Christ-centered CCCU school is the all-Christian faculty, the intentional Christian formation of students, and a peer group that wants to explore a Christian worldview and lead a countercultural life. David Brooks, bestselling author and New York Times columnist, describes what happens on Christian colleges this way: “Christian colleges have the formula to nurture human beings to have a devoted heart, a courageous mind, and a purposeful soul, and everyone wants it.”

Though much has changed about our world and about the college experience, one thing is constant: Young men and women attending college remain impressionable, and the influences they have during this period will shape their lives. College is a time for setting students up for success, not just in what they will do with their lives, but also who they will become. Christian colleges have world-class academic programs, as do many other higher education institutions, but that isn’t the only thing students need. The formation of one’s personhood is shaped by whom you study with, who influences you, and who becomes your community, because that shapes adult practices and habits of the heart. Like someone training for the Olympics, a student who wants to be their best and do their best for Jesus starts by getting the best training they can, by getting the best coaches and mentors, and by surrounding themselves with the best teammates who spur them on to meet their big, audacious goals in a world that opposes those dreams. That’s the Christian college described in the pages of this magazine.

Because Christian mission is so important to the ability to integrate one’s faith into one’s learning, the CCCU is the leading voice to protect and advance Christ-centered missions. Consider what is at stake. Imagine a world without overtly Christian colleges and universities. Imagine having no haven to openly, proudly live and share your Christian faith during your collegiate years. Make no mistake — there are those who would desire this future and will use the tools of government, media, and the courts to make it a reality. But the CCCU is the dam holding back those waters from pouring in and submerging Christian colleges and universities. And like a dam, the CCCU is steadfast. Immovable.

Together with the communities on our campuses, the expertise of our faculty and staff, the support of our boards of trustees, and the power of God at work in the world, Christian colleges and universities will be able to shape the lives of students — our future leaders — for generations to come.

Shirley V. Hoogstra is president of the CCCU.