Supporting Your Child s Heart, Soul, and Mind during the College Years TODD C. REAM, TIMOTHY W. HERRMANN, & C. SKIP TRUDEAU

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1 Supporting Your Child s Heart, Soul, and Mind during the College Years TODD C. REAM, TIMOTHY W. HERRMANN, & C. SKIP TRUDEAU

2 by Stanton L. Jones Provost, Wheaton College f the glossy viewbooks generated by all the higher education institutions are to be believed, every college and university has beautiful weather, amazing facilities, stellar faculty and students, and is absolutely the best at training the leaders of tomorrow and preparing students for excellence. Sorting through the facts and realities to separate myth from fact can be perplexing. Parents who are thoughtful Christians confront not only the challenge of discerning the realities behind the marketing materials, but also must strike a balance between the ideals you hold out for the education of your beloved child and the practicalities of your particular situation including your family finances and the spiritual maturity and college-readiness of your student. But it is important to begin with our ideals. What thoughtful Christian parent would not desire more for their child than just growth in knowledge and skill? Don t we desire also growth in maturity of faith, growth into Christ-likeness, growth into 11

3 goodness, growth toward becoming the man or woman that you know God desires your child to become? As Todd C. Ream, Timothy W. Herrmann, and C. Skip Trudeau point out in this excellent volume, some young adults will experience growth in knowledge and skill and growth in faith at a secular college or university. Attendance at a Christian college is not a prerequisite for a Christian young person to have a good college experience. As a graduate of two huge, tier-one, national research universities, I experienced this firsthand. For me, Texas A&M and Arizona State University were places of growth both intellectually and spiritually. But it was not until I came to a Christian liberal arts college to serve on the faculty (and later in administration) that I began to experience what I consider to be a close approximation of the ideal of what a college education should be. As an undergraduate and later as a graduate student, I experienced both intellectual and spiritual growth, but bringing those two together was a great challenge. This was in no small part because, by and large, the contemporary nonreligious college and university has given up on thoughtfully seeking to shape the personal and spiritual growth of students. Todd, Tim, and Skip discuss this reality, reflecting on how most contemporary colleges have abandoned the idea of serving en loco parentis, literally in the place of the parents, of taking over part of the responsibility of parenting and shepherding your children. In large part, this is intentional. To shape not just intellectual and practical skill but also religious faith, character, values, life philosophy, and almost everything that is truly meaningful, universities would have to have some coherent goal at which to aim. But at our secular institutions of higher learning, only 12

4 the value of tolerance today serves as a common foundation, an ultimately incoherent foundation. As public intellectual Stanley Fish recently and correctly said, it is impossible for universities to engage in moral and civic education because to do so requires deciding in advance which of the competing views of morality and citizenship is the right one. 1 If educators are by intent and inclination unwilling to make commitments to what is right, to a coherent and consistent vision of morality and citizenship, educators by definition are frozen at the starting line of the shaping of the person. The situation is rather like a race for sprinters in which everyone is encouraged to run off in any direction they desire. Christian higher education, in contrast, starts with a coherent vision of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful that can serve as a capable guide as we seek to shape the whole person of the student. It is for this reason that the Christian church, since its earliest days, supported a vision of holistic education and has fostered Christian education. As my Wheaton College colleague, philosopher Arthur F. Holmes, discussed in his book Building the Christian Academy, 2 the earliest Christian liberal arts academy was established by wise believers in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century, and has existed in various forms ever since as cathedral schools, seminaries, academies, and as the founding ideal for the earliest European universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. The Christian academy was established for four critical reasons: 1) to interact with the best thinking of unbelievers for the sake of evangelism and apologetics; 2) to learn from nonchristian thought for the sake of truth in the church; 3) to worship God by thinking broadly and well; and 4) to provide a holistic education which, 13

5 recognizing that the mind is interconnected with the heart and soul, that knowledge cannot be separated from character, seeks to emphasize growth in knowledge and in faith. This original vision now largely exists in the form of the contemporary Christian college in America. This Parent s Guide offers abundant wisdom about how thoughtful Christian parents can foster the growth of their son or daughter as they attend a Christian college. The authors present a compelling holistic vision of the development of the college student, and of how loving parents can support that growth. They give concrete tools of insight and information that can help parents avoid stunting their child s growth through negligence or, at the opposite extreme, by functioning as enmeshed helicopter parents who blunt the emergence of their student into adulthood by being too intrusively involved and doing too much for their child. Todd, Tim, and Skip present a wonderful vision of the core of Christian education as centering on worship. Indeed, the true worship of the great Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the cornerstone of Christian life. In addition to the practice of common worship that serves as our anchor in college chapel services and church, the Christian college also has the opportunity to foster an entire lifestyle of worship. As an undergraduate and graduate student at nonreligious institutions, I survived and even grew as a Christian, but was blunted in my realization that Christ was Lord over all of life, and that I could worship him in truth with my mind every bit as much as with my spirit and actions. It is this vision of bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear on the life of the mind that animates the project that marks a good number of the Christian 14

6 colleges, that of striving to integrate Christian faith and scholarship. Worship is not limited to a religious service, but rightly spills out into all areas of life including the intellectual life, and so Christian higher education is an opportunity for students to learn how to rightly order every facet of life under God s truth and God s sovereignty, and thus learn how to offer up all facets of life in worship of the one true God. 3 Christian parenting is properly directed at doing everything we parents can to encourage our children to become the men and women that God intends them to be. Sending your child to a Christian college can be a proper extension of that work of grace in your child s life. This book can be a thoughtful guide for your efforts as a parent as you seek to extend God s work in the life of your child through his or her higher education experience. The way forward is challenging. A Christian college education is not for everyone, and it is not possible for everyone. The price of a private Christian college education can be intimidating in a time of financial challenge, though I encourage you to investigate the possibilities thoroughly, as much more generous financial aid is available than parents often think. Discovering the realities behind the hype of college recruitment and marketing materials is equally a challenge, especially when more than a few schools present their historic religious affiliation as more than it really is, namely, a mere historical oddity. But with this book as a guide, you re well on your way to facilitating the growth of your son or daughter. May God bless and direct your efforts as parents, and may God bless your use of this guidebook. 15

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