There are over 4,000 universities in the United States. According to a survey by Inside Higher Ed, students choose their universities based on academic reputation, tuition, proximity to home and quality of education in their area of interest.
Roughly one in five of the universities in the U.S. offer a faith-based education. Students who are looking into or are currently enrolled in a Christian university may wonder: what is the importance of Christian education and what advantages does it offer over a secular one?
Here are four things Christian colleges do that benefit today’s students.
1. Create space to meet Christ.
Christian colleges create an environment where students can frequently encounter Christ. Through chapel services, small groups, mentorship and even classes, faith-based universities provide dedicated spaces and times for students to spend time in Christ’s presence and study His Word.
Faith-based universities also encourage students to get involved with local churches. A 2020 study by Cardus showed that students attending a private, religious school were twice as likely to attend religious services or groups than students who attended secular universities. By encouraging students to get involved, Christian colleges help students find fellowship with other believers at a time of change and decision in their lives.
2. Help students own their faith.
For many young adults, college is a time of identity formation. They build on what their parents have taught them and begin to take ownership of their faith. A Christian education teaches students how to engage with Scripture for themselves and learn to understand why they believe what they do.
Through foundational courses and mentorship, Christ-centered colleges give students the tools they need to study and interpret the Bible, apply it to their lives and discover “the why” behind their faith. Scripture-based teaching also helps students to prayerfully and biblically examine the world around them and remain rooted in their beliefs.
3. Offer community and support.
Students leaving home may experience feelings of isolation from their families, friends and communities. It’s important for them to find godly mentors and friends as they begin their college life.
Students who attend Christian colleges experience more support from their faculty and peers than students at public universities, according to a Cardus report. Christian university students reported seeing faculty as mentors, friends and even as religious counselors. These students felt an overall greater sense of belonging than students who attended secular colleges. Being involved in a Christian community helps students to feel less isolated, while giving them space to work through their doubts and concerns among like-hearted believers.
4. Encourage participation in society.
Many Christian universities offer opportunities for students to serve, both locally and internationally. Here at Southeastern, students can get involved in ministry at nearby churches, go on missions trips and even study abroad — where they get to partner with local churches and ministries. Christian colleges also encourage community participation beyond graduation.
In fact, over two-thirds of private religious university graduates reported that having a career that helped others was “very or extremely important.” The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) reports that its students are three times more likely to go into careers that deal with human services and are more likely to serve in their communities. Christian universities give students opportunities to serve others and encourage students to be active members of society, even after graduation.
By playing a unique role in their students’ spiritual formation, Christian colleges highlight the importance of Christian education. These universities can support students through biblical teaching, faith-based education and community at a time when they can become isolated and discouraged. Christian schools also provide students with opportunities to serve others in local and international settings. While Christian universities may not be the majority, Christ-centered colleges have the power to encourage, support and come alongside the next generation.