by Dr. Heidi R. Ventura
October is Christian Higher Education Month. When we celebrate all that our Christian colleges, universities, and other organizations provide in building God’s kingdom. I was raised on a college campus and could not have imagined my life in any setting that did not adhere to an academic calendar, beginning with convocations and ending with commencements. I am grateful for my Christian higher-education experiences, as they have shaped my life both professionally and personally.
The opportunities for chapels, small groups, prayers, and reflective devotionals provide spiritual formation for college and graduate students; however, as important as these experiences are, they are extracurricular—adjacent-curricular, at best. Christian higher education should foster a full intentionality to examine a God perspective within the learning itself.
Integrating Learning with a Christian Worldview
This “God perspective” is sometimes called the Christian worldview, and discussions about this intentionality are sometimes called faith and learning integration. Faith and learning integration can take various forms.
In my first academic position after college, for instance, my provost required each discipline to identify ten areas of worldview controversy. These were fascinating to me as a new academician; they ranged throughout the disciplines: the beauty of the Fibonacci numbers, the use of the body in dance, the accuracy of weights and measures in accounting practices, and the scriptural responsibilities laid upon leaders. As faculty members, we learned about specific touch points for discussing with students how God’s perspective informs their disciplines.
As another example, I worked at another institution where a theology faculty member hosted a monthly theology workshop in which non-theology faculty presented a theological perspective on discipline-specific issues or topics. Faculty and students in attendance then had the opportunity to ask questions and ponder the ideas presented.
Faith and learning integration doesn’t need to be limited to college classrooms and academic seminars; in fact, a growing body of resources has become available in recent years. As two examples, one of my alma maters is leading the way in studying and publishing Christian faith perspectives in leadership and business, and the Christian Scholar’s Review is compiling a list of top faith-animating learning books for each discipline.
Question to Ask When Considering a Christian College or University
It’s important for parents of traditional-aged students (e.g., 18-22), and for adults seeking to further their own education, to consider how their prospective Christian college or university integrates a Christian worldview into learning. Here are some questions to consider:
What resources and mentoring does the institution provide for new faculty to help them understand their discipline in light of a Christian worldview?
What contributions have the faculty and/or students made to advancing faith and learning integration?
What descriptions/objectives related to a Christian worldview exist within the curriculum? Do they appear in, for instance, program descriptions, student learning objectives, and/or course descriptions?
For adults considering masters and doctoral programs, I’d also recommend these questions:
What resources and mentoring are provided, or are available, to help you delve into God’s perspective on your discipline?
Will research requirements include considering scriptural and faith-tradition perspectives on your topic?
How might your research findings be positioned to advance God’s kingdom?
Helping students connect with the truth of God’s purpose and perspective is the eternal calling for Christian higher education. We must study with diligence so that our work is done “not with presumption but in humility” (Kuyper, 1889/2014, p. 3). Then, we can celebrate having truly Christian higher education.
Kuyper, A. (2014). Scholarship: Two convocation addresses on the university life. Christian’s Liberty Press. (Original work published in 1889).
Dr. Heidi R Ventura is Professor of Leadership Studies and Associate Dean of Academic Research and Innovation at Trevecca Nazarene University. She is also a member of CFBU’s Academic Advisory Council.