Christian colleges and my counterpoint to criticism

My friend Chuck Bomar has recently blogged some concerns about Christian colleges, and he said he plans to continue for a few months. So I want to offer a counterpoint based on what I’ve researched. This is a discussion that matters for all of college ministry, for a few reasons I’ll mention below.

I do encourage you to take a look at Chuck’s posts so far – and make sure to read the comments from others, as well. The anecdotal testimonies are worth taking note of. Whether we agree or not with the conclusions people draw, it’s important to recognize that there are many college ministers who feel a tension in this area.

At the same time, Chuck hints at some conclusions and takes a general approach that I question. So my posts will flesh out some of my views and perhaps offer a balance.

Here are Chuck’s posts so far:

[My series ended up with four posts:]

For now, two key thoughts to set the stage:

Christian college chaplaincy is an important part of college ministry.

Many Christian colleges have staff (chaplains, ministry directors, student pastors, etc.) who participate in the same thing we all participate in: direct, specialized discipleship of college students. While there is more to Christian schools than the “Spiritual Life” department, that’s the area I consider one “branch” of college ministry. (If you’ve read my ebook, you’ve seen this.)

But I am no “Christian college apologist”! I’m glad to share concerns about Christian schools when needed. But this week I’ll also be discussing some of the amazing things Christian college chaplains have to offer the other branches – church-based and campus-based college ministry. In the field of college ministry, it’s about time we all start learning from each other – and these guys have a lot to teach.

We must be careful to stick with what we know.

Ah, there’s the rub. I have no standing to make claims or bold statements about those aspects of Christian colleges I haven’t studied well. This is particularly true because the issues are often so complex; Christian college leaders themselves have discussed and debated many of these things at length. Further, Christian colleges, like all colleges, are highly contextual. Because every campus is different, our research must go well beyond our own circles (geographical, denominational, experiential) to get a true view of what’s going on.

So I’m not sure I’m allowed to “proclaim” or even to “interrogate” Christian colleges outside of the areas I’ve studied broadly. It is certainly appropriate to ask humble questions about areas I’m less familiar with. But it makes no sense for me to die on hills I haven’t even mapped.

And the subject of Christian colleges is a very intricate hill.

As always, you are welcome to comment on any of my posts! Feel free to disagree, agree, or add your two cents this week. Dialogue is always fun.

Continue this mini-series here.

Written largely from Capital University in Bexley, Ohio

Road Trip #11 update (Day 35)
yesterday’s T-shirt: the Owl tribe of Temple University
ampus visits: Capital University (#35), Cedarville University (#36)
click here to see all the explorations from Road Trip #11)

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