I was asked to write about how parents can help their kids choose a college from a Christ-obsessed perspective. My first suggestion may surprise some people, so I will get it out of the way and then move to responses that you might expect.
To the question of choosing a Christ-honoring college, I would first ask the question—Why are you sending your kid to college at all? Have you determined that a college degree is necessary in order to help your son or daughter fulfill what King Jesus wants them to do? Or are you doing it just because that is what people do? When one compares the cost of time and money with the return on investment, I think the question deserves to be asked. There may be a better (and cheaper) alternative than the traditional approach. According to Dr. William Bennett and David Wilezol, half of the college graduates of 2010-11 were unemployed or dramatically underemployed, the debt load many of them carry is overbearing, and much of what is taught in humanities and social sciences is “nonsense (or nonsense on stilts), politically tendentious, and worth little in the marketplace and for the enrichment of your mind and soul” (Is College Worth It?). A big expense that brings little advantage is not a Christ-honoring approach to anything.
Now for those who decide that college is necessary and worth it, here are a few thoughts:
Education, not experience, is the purpose. Today’s culture seems to believe that college was created to meet the two main goals of 1) preparing a person to get a “good job” and 2) providing the opportunity to sow all of the raging unrestrained young-adult oats without supervision or serious consequence. Christian parents would deny number two, but they might be okay with number one. That would be a mistake. For believers, there is a higher, nobler calling than simply finding employment. Christians want to serve Jesus and build His kingdom. We seek true learning about the world so that we can know how it really is, so that we can make a difference for Christ in it. The benefit of college should be the knowledge, wisdom, and general know-how of how the world works more than the words on the diploma (even the Latin ones). The question that must be answered is, Will the years (and money) spent at this institution increase my ability to change the world for Jesus? If the answer is “no” or “not sure,” then why would you go forward with it?
What temptations will this college present to my children? Will they be tempted to abandon their faith for a Christ-defying worldview? Will their faith lose its flavor and get stuck up under the desktop? Will it get mushy? Will there be regular temptations to partying, flirting, or video game tournaments?
Is this institution designed to help students love Jesus? Clearly not, if it is a secular or government school. But even so-called Christian universities must not be assumed to love God’s truth. Again, if true learning is the goal, an academy which lacks the foundation for true learning is unlikely to produce the desired results.
For expertise in a specific skill, think apprenticeship instead. There is a reason why Jesus did not send his students to seminary (and why we at NCST teach ours in the thick of pastoral ministry). For many things, possibly most, doing under the tutelage of a proficient trainer is far superior to reading about someone doing it. Real life, hands-on experience may be a far better way to hone a craft than an expensive college curriculum.
For the record, I am not fundamentally opposed to college. (Yet!) I may even send one or more of my own kids to one. But I am fundamentally opposed to being swept down river by the world’s current, and all the more so when it wastes huge amounts of time and money. Just like everything else, Jesus is king of our education and careers. We should seek Him and seek to please Him in how we go about it.