Christian colleges and universities are hurting. A recent piece on CNNMoney reports these institutions are slashing tuition in an attempt to stay afloat.
The article cited declining church membership, especially among the young, as a nagging cause for the problems plaguing Christian schools.
But I wonder if the picture is a bit more complex. I wonder if the academic product itself is losing some luster.
Allow me to pose some questions. I’d love to hear your answers.
- Do Bible colleges and seminaries have a clearly defined goal? And is that goal in concert with the students’ goal for a higher education? As a former student, and as a parent and an employer, I’ve looked to academic institutions to equip students to succeed in the work world. That’s the top priority, the first reason students and their parents would part with their tuition dollars. Do schools embrace this top priority?
- Do Bible colleges and seminaries accept the responsibility to prepare students with practical skills, in addition to theory and theology? Some years ago we polled people in full-time ministry. We asked if they felt their colleges and seminaries adequately prepared them for real ministry. Only five percent said yes.
- How are faculty members chosen? What is the top hiring priority? Is it the true demonstrated ability to effectively teach, inspire and equip students? Or, is it other stuff, such as academic pedigree, authored books, or name recognition?
- Do schools pursue a customer focus? Are they passionately dedicated to customer (student) satisfaction? If so, you’d expect to see evidence such as regular follow-up with students and past students. Have you received follow-up questionnaires inquiring about how well your education prepared you for real-life ministry? Has your college or seminary asked how they might improve their service?
And a bonus question: What’s with this thing called tenure? Is this really working to maintain a staff of consistently top performers who serve their students?
I have a number of friends who serve in Christian academia. They’re good hard-working people. I just wonder if the system is serving them and their students as well as it might.
What do you think?
oh my~ this is timely for us!~ thankyou~ whew!
Since I do not work nor am I a student, I’ve re-worded your article to fit me. I’m continuing to ask (since reading your article-and before but probably not as intently)myself, what are my conversations doing to help the people I talk with generating? Are they getting anything out of them or am I just blowing wind? Do they leave the conversations we’ve shared thinking (as I do with your articles 🙂 ) or do they forget as soon as the conversation is over?
Thank you for your thoughts. Some Christians believe the network is an evil place and is no place for Christian articles; how I thank you that you don’t.
I had a great experience at seminary and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I even sit on an advisory board for the seminary–that’s just how much I believe in what they do and how grateful I am to them for my education and formation. However, that is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement and thankfully, they are looking to embrace some new things like online offerings and making coursework available to those who may not have undergraduate degrees.
1. I believe my seminary has a clear, defined goal and I believe in my case it was met. Their mission statement is: “integrates theological education with Christ-centered transformation as it equips men and women for ministry in the church and the world.”
2. As for practical skills, I’m part of a Facebook group called “Things They Didn’t Teach us in Seminary”. It’s a fun group with people listing lighthearted things as well as some serious things that people deal with in ministry that no one taught them about. We’re also able to provide each other with advice and support. To some degree, there are things that really, no one can prepare us for. Who could even begin to imagine some of the many and sundry things that one will deal with in ministry? The issues are as many as there are people on the face of the earth. Also, I wonder if seminaries don’t teach some practical things because, particularly if they’re not a strict denominational seminary, it would be too difficult to teach me about the intricacies of ministering in a Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Quaker, etc. environment. Every denomination and/or church has its own polity and again, I think it would too difficult for seminaries to try to delve into all the complexities. Maybe seminaries assume (wrongly or rightly) that is training that our churches will provide.
3. At my seminary, I know that the faculties’ academic background is looked into, but I think just based on what little I’ve heard, that there is some discussion on the faculty member’s spirituality and beliefs. In the mission statement, it’s stated that they seek “faculty with shared commitment to biblical, evangelical faith; the pursuit of excellence in teaching; and professional development through continuing education and research. This interdenominational team of educators attempts to create both a community of fellowship and a climate for learning.”
4. Customer focus is a good point and I have not had any follow-up from my seminary. I wonder if seminaries are just short-staffed to even offer that kind of follow-up or maybe it’s never occurred to them? It’s a worthy point to pursue rather than relying on anecdotal stories from the occasional alum that might end up working with the seminary or staying in touch in one way or another. More than likely, most alums are never contacted beyond the requisite fundraising letter.
Very good thoughts. I attended seminary and many times I have felt that sem. could have done a better job for me. I think it would be very helpful if actual ministry practicum would be part of the course load. This would extend the time in school but I think it would be worth it. I really like the idea of schools following up on their students after graduation.
Not too long ago we had a Admissions Director of a Christian University visit our Church. He shared with the congregation the school’s role in society, the Church and what it had to offer young people seeking a career serving the Lord. Outside there was a table with information and it all seemed like it was a dynamic opportunity, especially the opportunity for scholarship. After reading this, and based on experience, I wonder what the how it all is in reality, the day to day for the students and staff. I pray there’s a turn around and just like churches and a nation need a revival, so do Christian Universities!