4 Critical Things for Christian Higher Education Leaders to Remember
By: Brian Jensen October 18, 2021
First, a confession. I must admit that I’ve not been “on the ground and in the trenches” working on a college campus for a few years now. Christian higher education, however, still holds a very special place in my heart and mind. I believe it is more important than ever in our world; and as I continue to talk with old friends and colleagues in the field, I know they feel the same way. It is not easy work, maybe harder than ever. As much as I can, I try to encourage those who are doing this good, but difficult work.
So I wanted to offer something for my friends in the field during National Higher Education Month: a simple encouragement to continue striving in this critical work. Christ’s Kingdom needs you, the field needs you, your campus, and your students need you.
My church is currently in a series titled Rhythms of Remembrance. As forgetful people, our lives need to be soaked with these moments of remembering. We must remember the God who loves us and knows us, we must remember the incredible things He has done throughout all of history and in our own lives, and we must remember the promises found throughout the scriptures. And while the tyranny of the urgent has always plagued higher education professionals, it is stronger than ever. This is why I think it is crucial to build rhythms into your life that will help you remember what is most important.
As we think about the broader field of higher education this month, I want to ask you to think about your particular place in it and remember four important things as you continue to serve the Kingdom on your own campus.
1. Remember the Story
As my friend Dr. Keith Martel and I have written about before, each and every one of our practices emerges from a story about reality. The question then becomes, which story are you being shaped by? Our life and our practices should be shaped by the rich story of the biblical narrative--from the garden in Genesis to the city in Revelation.
Remember the ultimate story often, and build in time to reflect on how it is shaping you and the work you are doing for your students.
2. Remember the Place
Within the grander story of God’s world, is the story of your own campus and its particular place in His kingdom. When I worked at Geneva College I always took time with our new hires to explain the particular context of where they were now serving. I would highlight the history and heritage of our own place and the fact that they were now participating in that story to continue the legacy.
Remember the story of your own institution and what God has done throughout its history.
3. Remember the People
As a leader, you are a steward. And your stewardship responsibilities encompass more than just monetary resources--you must steward the people entrusted to your care. The students living and learning on your campus, the faculty and staff you collaborate with every day, the families, donors, and even strangers among you--all are important fellow image-bearers who play an integral role in the story of your institution.
Remember that your institution exists for the individual people who are serving and learning for the glory of God.
4. Remember the Why
The purpose of Christian higher education goes far beyond the accumulation of knowledge. It is about the transformation of lives as you equip students to serve in Christ’s Kingdom. Never forget the “why” of your institution’s purpose. Distractions and disruptions will come, but remain focused on your north star purpose.
Remember the core mission of your institution and its raison d'être in serving the broader Kingdom of God.
This month is National Higher Education Month, so we here at Vanderbloemen have committed special energy to encouraging and listening to the needs of those of you working in higher education. Our goal is to help you remember why you do what you do after a long, difficult season of leadership, and to equip you with the tools you need to thrive as an institution going forward. So from me and the rest of my team here, thank you for what you do. As I mentioned earlier, you are doing far more than just helping students gain knowledge. You are shaping the future of the Christian faith, one student, faculty member, and family at a time.