I didn’t go to a Christian university, but I was pretty involved with one during college. I met my closest friends, drew deeper into my faith, and learned so much about Christ through the professors, staff, and events held by the university. My life and my faith would be so different if it hadn’t been for that school in the Concordia University System. I am grateful that God has given us these institutions.
But recently, and not just because of the ongoing pandemic that has changed the educational landscape, Christian colleges—specifically, our Concordias—have been struggling. Here are some ways you can support the evangelism that is done at Christian universities.
Why You Should Care
First, we have to go into why you should care. Maybe you think that sending youth to a Christian university is shielding them from the world or that they can go elsewhere for the same education. Maybe you’re super passionate about the school you went to and couldn’t imagine campaigning for a different place. Maybe you aren’t convinced of their worth.
As O. Alan Noble, associate professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University wrote for Christianity Today, “Even if a Christian college isn’t alma mater, it is school; they are schools.” He goes on to explain that they work in service to the church and world.
Lutheran colleges and universities equip the future leaders of the church. Not only that, but they allow students to grow and learn that their vocations, whether they are in church work or not, are important to the kingdom of God. These schools are incredible sending-grounds and harvest fields; not everyone who attends is a Christian. I witnessed multiple baptisms each year my now-husband attended his Concordia.
More than that, students learn to put their faith into everything they do without being shielded from the world. While I was taking an upper-level Spanish course at my non-Christian school, I ended up forming a friendship with the doctoral student next to me. She was taking the class because her thesis was going to use some documents written in Spanish and she wanted to do more than simply googling translations. One day I walked in wearing a Concordia shirt, and she said, “Concordia?! I teach there!”
I then discovered that she had taught several of my friends, and I continued to see her on Concordia’s campus. One day she said, “I actually like teaching at Concordia more.” She explained to me that her students at Concordia were better able to articulate their beliefs about any topic, not just about faith.
And this isn’t only based on my experiences or those of my friends: a nonpartisan, inter-denominational Christian research group called Cardus found that religious institutions actually challenged students in their faith and led to more engagement in faith. They also saw that graduates of Christian colleges cared more about helping others in their future professions and less about the amount of money they’d earn than their counterparts at public and non-religious private schools.
Encourage Youth to Attend
One reason a lot of young people in our church body choose to attend a different school over a Concordia or a Christian university is that something misleads them to believe that it’s an unappealing option. Whether that means that they don’t think they’d like going to a Christian school or that the programs won’t ultimately help them get a job, you can easily address these hesitations.
If your church is relatively close to a Concordia or a Christian university, you can encourage your congregation to schedule an on-campus visit with your high school ministry or see if a recruiter can come and speak to both your congregation and your college-bound students. Show your youth that Christian colleges and universities are full of opportunity and that having a smaller faculty-student ratio will help them develop deep connections with professors and the heads of their programs.
Engage with the University
Even if you are far from the closest Concordia or Christian university, you can help support their work from wherever you are. Of course, part of that can mean donating or providing aid to students. However, it is not the only way.
While you are sending your congregation’s college students care packages, consider sending a few to the nearest Concordia or Christian university as well. Reach out to the administration and ask if they can connect you with a student to “adopt,” of sorts. Or find a campus group to partner with. Is there one that is doing a winter clothing drive? Send in some of your old things. Show the students of the university that they belong to the larger community of believers.
Add to Your Prayer Life
Of course, one of the biggest ways to support the evangelism and discipleship efforts of Christian universities is to pray for them. When praying for these institutions, here are some specific things you can pray for:
- The staff who work to create clean, safe, and electronically savvy environments.
- The professors, that they would easily connect Jesus Christ to the subject(s) they are teaching.
- The administration, that they would prioritize the Gospel and the students.
- The availability of scholarships and funding for students at the university and that students would find creative ways to fund their educational experiences.
- The students who are on campus and do not know the Gospel of Christ, that their lives would be transformed by the Good News.
- The students engaging with the university to deepen their knowledge and trust in the Lord.
You can pray these things for all universities, of course, but Christian universities are in a unique position to spread the Gospel.
Nearly every Tuesday of my college career, I spent the evenings worshiping at Concordia. I would stand in the chapel, in a recital room, or outside with other college students. Another student would lead us in song. I was welcome to praise with them. My time with my friends being encouraged in the Word at Concordia lead to lifelong friendships and a community cheering my family on. Our continued support of these communities leads to engaged disciples of Jesus Christ.