Archives For education

Exterior of a building with Education engraved in stone

I hadn’t intended college to be a particularly eye-opening experience. I was excited about my newfound freedom and interesting classes and those deep friendships everyone always talked about, but I was going someplace where I thought all those things would happen in the context of familiarity. My Southern Baptist college had felt like home during my first on-campus visit—that was what drew me there in the first place.

But at the start of my second semester, I sat with my Bible on the roof of the gymnasium (where the serious scholars went to study all night), wondering whether the loneliness and uncertainty I felt meant I had made the wrong decision in coming to a place six hours from home. Those good college things—the classes and the friends and the football games and the freedom—had all happened. But instead of feeling fulfilled, I was left with a bigger question, one that I now know most people that age, particularly younger Christians, probably face at one time or another: Who am I going to be?

I met people my own age who pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it means to be a Christian, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

A few years later when I graduated, I was glad I had been at that small college six hours from home as I tried to answer that big question. Because it was there that I found people with the knowledge, experience, and empathy to help young people navigate that tricky territory between the familiar and the future. Here are three things I still value about my Christian college experience:

1. A deeper faith identity. Raised in a minister’s home, I thought I had Christianity figured out (and, at 18, probably most everything else too). That’s why it was surprising, then convicting, to find other people my age who knew much more and felt much more about the call of Jesus on their lives than I did. And these weren’t just the kids that had committed to career ministry or missions—these were everyday students studying to be dentists, attorneys, and counselors. But they seemed to understand that the responsibility of a Christian to be, well, a Christian, extended far beyond one’s future vocation. They lived their faith in a way I wanted to, and their example pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it meant to be actually be a believer in Christ, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

2. Challenging, trustworthy professors. My first class on my first day of college was Old Testament Survey, taught by a young professor who would present four or five different theories about a difficult text and then say something like: “That’s what some people think. Here’s what I think.” Usually, his opinion was similar to one that he had presented. But by giving us the breadth of knowledge on a particular topic, he showed us young Bible scholars that it’s OK to wrestle with Scripture. At the same time, his daily, trustworthy counsel through the Bible gave us an anchor to come back to amid the multiple interpretations offered by the outside world.

3. Unrequired opportunities. Like many high school youth group kids, I started going to church because my parents drove me there, and I kept going because I had always gone. But in college, I didn’t have to be anywhere. Tuesday night Bible study wasn’t a necessity; neither was a Saturday mission project in our neighboring city. Learning to commit to things that weren’t required drove me to deeper discipline about how I spent my energy and time. The ministry activities that are most valuable, I learned in college, are the ones that root themselves in your mind and heart so that you are compelled to take part, even if no one would miss you if you weren’t there.

After I graduated, I moved to the Midwest to attend graduate school at a large state university. It was certainly different than where I had been. And that’s one more reason I’m grateful for my college experience: The foundation that God, through wise professors and leaders, had begun to lay for me carried me through the challenges of a truly unfamiliar place. And has continued to do so, all these years later.

– Meredith Flynn

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How to help students ask—and answer—big questions about the future

Jeff Reep works to help students make the right decisions for their futures, even if the process takes a while.

“It’s always better to get it right than to get it fast,” the director of career services tells students at Cedarville University, a Christian school in Ohio. Indeed, many collegians report not getting it right on their first attempt. Reep points to a statistic from leadership expert Tim Elmore that found 40% of college graduates wish they had chosen a different major.

It’s easy to see how it happens to so many people, Reep said. Well-meaning people at church or in the community start asking a student in high school where they’re planning to go to college and what they’ve chosen as a major. The response—business, education, etc.—often isn’t based on how God is leading, or how the student is wired. Instead, it becomes something that’s easy to repeat. All of a sudden, Reep said, the student is a junior in college who’s never really struggled with what they’ll do with their degree once they’ve earned it.

Am I really surrendered to God? Is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him?

That trajectory puts students on the fast track to joining the majority of Americans who aren’t happy in their work, Reep said. The number of satisfied workers inproved slightly over the last decade, according to the Conference Board’s annual job satisfaction survey. Still, just over half of the population say they don’t like their job.

“So many times, people look at a lifestyle and don’t consider a life work,” Reep said. A young person might aspire to live in a certain neighborhood or achieve a certain level of prestige, for example, but they don’t consider what kind of work is actually required of a particular vocation.

At Cedarville, Reep’s team helps students in three basic areas: exploration, which includes counseling about careers, internships, and majors; navigational skills, or developing resumés, cover letters, and other tools needed in a job search; and networking opportunities with faculty and employers who can help them as they investigate their options. Everything Reep’s team does is designed to help students answer big questions: Who am I? And where does God want me to be?

When he talks with students, Reep tells them he knows what God wants them to do, which is a pretty major assertion that he doesn’t take lightly. But there are three things he says he feels sure the Lord is calling them to do as they think about the future. The three steps can be helpful to pastors and church leaders as they help students in their congregations navigate the same issues:

1. Pray about it. And pray specifically, Reep advises. Ask God to put people on your mind who you should talk to about a potential career direction. Who can help you as you’re thinking through these things, or who can refer you to someone else who can help?

2. Ask for advice. Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Reep urges students to heed Scripture’s encouragement to seek out wise advisors. And not just for job or internship opportunities. People are honored when you ask for career advice based on their experience, he said. And they may be able to point students to opportunities they haven’t yet considered.

3. Delight yourself in the Lord. The counsel of Psalm 37:4 is especially comforting for students seeking God’s will for their future. If a student can say they’re delighting in the Lord, that he’s their treasure, their satisfaction, and their identity, Reep said, then the next question is: What do you desire to do?

“If there is something that you desire to do, put it out there,” he advises. “And then start moving toward it.” And stay open to how God might continue to shape that desire.

The differences between “vocation” and “career” and “calling” can be confusing for students trying to make sense of their options. But Reep says every Christian is in full-time ministry. “Whether it is [as] a pharmacist or at a state university or on the mission field. And God is the one that provides for each of those people.” Calling goes back to “am I really, totally surrendered to him, am I a living sacrifice for him, is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him,” Reep said. “Then, out of that, what I do is my service, my calling.”

-Meredith Flynn

The BriefingAmericans most thankful for family & health
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Most Americans are thankful for family (88%), health (77%), personal freedom (72%) and friends (71%). Fewer give thanks for wealth (32%) or achievements (51%), according to a new study from LifeWay.

Top Bible verse, topics of 2016 election
On Election Day, more people were searching the Bible for topics involving the end times than for praying for government. And the top Bible verse of the 2016 presidential election: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Christian colleges grapple with election, views on women & minorities
Exit polls suggest 81% of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump. But support for him may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals. Internal polls from some Christian colleges before the general election showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43% of respondents said they would vote for Clinton.

University: Religious volunteering doesn’t count
Two students are suing a Wisconsin university for denying them mandatory community service credits for work they did with a local church. The university claims their service projects violate a policy excluding hours that involve certain religious activities. The students, who filed a lawsuit in federal court, argue the policy is viewpoint discrimination and unconstitutional.

Protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress. “Look, these people, these protesters, aren’t opposing me or our church,” he said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church because of the pastor’s apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. “When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, saying I’m going to topple you over.

Sources: Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Religion News, World Magazine, Baptist Press

The BriefingMuhammad Ali heard Gospel from Graham, Rogers
Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, and Dan Dumas are among the Christians who have told of Gospel conversations with the late  boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Concern over Ali’s religious beliefs once led his father to take the boxer to visit evangelist Billy Graham. Rogers, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, told in at least three sermons between 1986 and 1994 of sharing the Gospel with Ali.

Moore: Trump ‘lost’ soul’ who must repent
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has not been shy about mixing it up with Donald Trump, and now Moore is at it again, telling an interviewer that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a “lost person” who needs to find Jesus. Moore has for months blasted what he sees as Trump’s boorish behavior and character flaws.

How the transgender directive could affect Christian education
In response to President Barack Obama’s order that public schools allow students to use the restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their gender identities, Christian Schools International (CSI) and Association of Christian Schools international (ACSI) issued gender policy guidelines to their members. The transgender directive will most immediately affect Christian schools participating in state sports competitions as public schools adopt new transgender policies or other policies related to LGBT students.

Baylor story shows how religious schools struggle with sex assault
Reports that Baylor University fired Ken Starr due to his handling of a sex assault scandal rocketed around political circles, but the allegations were equally big for a different reason: Baylor is the world’s largest Baptist university. The reports about Starr were explosive among many evangelicals because they tap into a couple of the most basic contemporary debates at religious schools: What is the impact of the honor codes many religious schools have around sexual behavior? Is there a conflict between being a religious school and trying to be a major athletic powerhouse?

Evangelicals feel alienated, anxious
Religious conservatives could once count on their neighbors to at least share their view of marriage. Those days are gone. Now, many evangelicals say liberals want to seal their cultural victory by silencing the church.  The Associated Press reports evangelicals see evidence of the threat in every new uproar over someone asserting a right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages — whether it be a baker, a government clerk, or the leaders of religious charities, and schools.

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News, WORLD Magazine, Washington Post,  Napa Valley Register

Safe zoneRecently I had an opportunity to attend a conference at one of the schools in the Illinois State University system. The conference was very informative and what I learned should benefit IBSA churches. What I learned walking through the campus may have been an even greater education.

I always enjoy being on college campuses and find the atmosphere invigorating. It’s a world that’s insulated from the stressors of work, dedicated to learning, the exchange of ideas, and full of youthful energy. But as a Christian it seems less and less welcoming.

Posters on the walls of hallways advertised events featuring authors of books on “queer” studies and “Lavender Graduation” ceremonies which the Human Rights Campaign describes as “an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.” The ceremony was scheduled to take place in a
few weeks in one of the rooms where my conference was meeting.

Different offices bore rainbow colored stickers emblazoned with the words, “Safe Zone.” Generally, they denote places where students can “safely” approach those inside about LGBTQ issues. I wondered how welcome I would be to walk inside and discuss Christ.

Like many of us, I consider myself well-read and informed, believing I know what’s going on in our country and culture. However, the reality of the situation hit me like a slap across the face. This is what many students from our churches encounter on their public university campuses everyday. Their beliefs are not celebrated and most likely not welcomed.

We must encourage and disciple the young people in our churches. We must do the same for them on our college campuses, and our churches must reach out to those on the campuses who do not know Christ. The culture is leading the next generation away from Christ, and we must speak truth into that culture—the truth that is Christ.

Christian college students can’t do it alone. Remember yourself as a student and the pressures you faced. Those pressures have only multiplied. Our churches must stand alongside them.

During a break between sessions, I found my way to the restrooms—one marked “men” and another marked “women.” I couldn’t help but wonder who I might encounter inside.

– LMS

The BriefingPalatine school refuses transgender student locker room use

A suburban Chicago school district has announced that it will not allow transgender students to use locker rooms for changing and showering, defying federal civil rights officials. Township High School District 211 in Palatine, IL allows transgender students to use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity, because there are private stalls. But the district will continue barring transgender students from communal locker rooms to “protect the privacy of all students.”


Nude photos gone from Playboy: Good or bad news?

Playboy magazine recently announced it would no longer print completely nude photos of women. What does this mean for our culture? According to Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler, “Playboy has outlived its ability to transgress and to push the moral boundaries. As a matter of fact, it was a victim of its own sad success. Pornography is such a pervasive part of modern society that Playboy is now a commercial victim of the very moral revolution it symbolized and promoted for decades.”


‘Woodlawn’ opens in top 10

The faith-based drama “Woodlawn” opened in the eighth spot Oct. 16, and finished the weekend at number nine, earning a total of $4.1 million, Box Office Mojo reported. Based on the true story of a high school football team in the midst of racial integration 40 years ago in Birmingham, Ala., the film follows the journey of African American Tony Nathan as a star running back for the Woodlawn High School Colonels in 1973 after court-ordered desegregation. Amid racial hatred, cross burnings and riots, spiritual revival transforms the team so profoundly that it affects the team’s coach, school and community.


Returning missionaries grateful for help

The IMB’s transition team recently created a database to manage the list of housing, employment and other offers sent to returning missionaries by state conventions, local churches, SBC entities and other sources. WMU is also extending a push to make churches aware of the needs of returning missionaries. The entity is offering to counsel individuals, churches and associations who want to learn more about starting a missionary house ministry.

Sources: AlbertMohler.com, Baptist Press, International Mission Board, Washington Post

The BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Pope Francis’ historic address to Congress proved troubling in both its lack of clarity on moral issues and in its church-state impropriety, Southern Baptist leaders and pastors said.

Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the invitation by congressional leaders to the head of a religious body to speak to legislators was problematic. Baptists “historically have been very opposed to the United States government recognizing any religion or religious leader in such a way,” Mohler had told BP before the pope’s visit to Washington.

Bart Barber, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, told Baptist Press, “For Congress to treat a church as though it were a state and the head of a church as though he were the head of a state runs contrary to basic First Amendment principles of disestablishment.” Read more from Baptist Press.


Southern Baptist rep. announces bid for House Speaker

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced he is running for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy and his family are members of Valley Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Bakersfield.  The House Majority Leader announced his bid Monday (Sept. 28) to replace John Boehner (R-OH) who resigned from the position last week.


Sandi Patty announces retirement

Five-time Grammy and 40-time Dove Award winner Sandi Patty announced her retirement Monday (Sept. 28) in New York City. “No matter what you do, there comes a time when you should step away. And mine has finally come,” shared the 59-year-old Patty.

Patty will embark on a yearlong farewell tour in Feb. 2016.


Rainbow Doritos introduced to support LBGT charity

Frito-Lay, the parent company of Doritos, has introduced rainbow-colored chips in support of the LBGT non-profit the It Gets Better Project. But, you won’t be seeing the Cool Ranch flavor chips on store shelves. They are only available through a $10 donation to the charity project.


CCCU accepts resignations of Goshen, EMU

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Board of Directors announced the resignations of Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. The two schools sparked dissension — and prompted other schools to withdraw from the council — after expanding their hiring and benefits policies to embrace same-sex marriage.

The board also appointed a task force to review CCCU categories of association to accommodate the changing face of religious liberty.

Sources: Baptist Press, CNN, KevinMcCarthy.House.gov, RNS. U.S. News