Christian college and university professors and others from around the world converged in Houston, Texas, from June 7-9, for the 42nd annual Christian Scholars Conference.
In my presentation, entitled “Mission and Culture: The Heart and Soul of Christian Higher Education,” I shared with colleagues how the mission and culture of a Christian college has the power to transform people’s values, motivations, and actions into a positive outcome. In many ways, mission directs and drives an organization’s culture. While mission is about “purpose,” culture is about “personality.” Mission is the “talk” while culture is the “walk.” In fact, at its best, the mission and its culture reflect the heart and soul of a Christian college and its community.
The most powerful cultural lesson from the literature is that Christian colleges and universities must create a genuine sense of “belonging” among their students (and others) if they are to sustain themselves (and thrive) in response to the theme of the conference, “What will be our future?” They must foster an integrated Christian life, healthy in mind, body, and soul…and place an emphasis on “participation” rather than on the spectator role, which can then set them apart from the myriad of secular institutions with which they compete by creating a strategic advantage and distinction that becomes more easily sustainable.
Christian higher education’s religious distinctive is the result of refusing to “compartmentalize” religion by providing a unifying Christian worldview. In particular, the educational distinctive of a Christian college must be clearly articulated, providing an opportunity to integrate the Christian presence into an understanding and participation in the various arts and sciences as well as in the nonacademic aspects of campus life.
Change is challenging for many institutions; however, Christian colleges and universities should increasingly pay special attention to the importance of their mission and culture by creating a powerful sense of purpose, belonging, participation, and community.