As the president of a Christian university, it’s my job to communicate the vision what a Christian university should be to our faculty and staff. In my mind, Christian universities should be places that nurture and mentor, but also challenge.
Our mission is simple: Christian higher education and doing it with excellence. In the world of higher education, many things can vie for our attention, but our primary focus is students, both traditional undergrad and adult. Take them away, and we’re not here. As Christian educators, we exist for more than ourselves.
I think we need to be reminded of this because other loves often trump our love for students. These mistresses can be compelling. I’ll name three.
For some of us, our field of study is the mistress that seduces us from meaningful interaction with students. Content fascinates us –and to land a gig that pays us to follow our academic interests is a good job. We love music or math or film or philosophy more than we love our students. To be honest, students are a bother at times … because they refuse to love our field as much as we love our field. They distract us. Loving theories and facts and books is so much easier than loving students.
Others of us love our leisure more than we love our students. We get weekends off, a ton of holidays, a long winter’s nap and, for some, a partial year contract. So we easily fall into the minimalist routine– show up, lecture, attend some meetings, keep the grades flowing, and slide to the parking lot as early as possible. Students are a pain when it comes to our schedules –especially when they want our time, our applause at their ballgame or play or concert, our worshipping presence in community chapels, our wisdom for their issues. And lots of times they want it after 9 p.m., which really messes with us.
And then others of us love the idea of retirement more than we love our students. We just can’t pull the trigger yet, so we hold on for the day we can get the rocking chair and open our TIAA-Cref mail. If we could retire tonight, we would—because the love of educating students is no longer a passion that propels us from our beds every morning.
Lots of loves –our field of study, our research, our leisure, our schedule, our retirement–lots of loves can supersede the love for students and our work of forming them by way of Christian higher education.
I want to call Christian educators to embrace the love of students and to do the hard work of educating them with excellence. Why?
Because we are loved by God and entrusted with human life.
Because education is being done in destructive ways all over the world and we have a chance to do it better.
Because the culture of darkness needs our graduates if there is to be hope and light.