Churches promoting colleges]From another thread -

Don Johnson wrote:
Pastors have a large influence over what schools are seen to be on the 'approved' list for a church. This is done by the literature you promote, the music/drama groups you might have in, the college reps, etc. Obviously each family makes their own decisions, but don't discount the influence of pastoral ministry.

I've been to several churches that have no 'approved' list, and do not attempt in any way to promote certain colleges. I personally prefer this approach- if a church member wants the church leadership's opinion about a school, that's one thing. But IMO it's problematic for a church to purposefully promote certain colleges.

For starters, the primary reason to attend college is to obtain skills and a degree in a particular field of study. How can church leadership offer blanket recommendations of colleges unless they know what vocations their youth are considering, and they have solid information about the quality of the courses offered at the colleges they prefer? Are pastors in the business of studying Fiske ? Or should they leave that task to parents?

When Christian colleges and seminaries are promoted exclusively it also tends to give the impression that the youth should consider ministry vocations as their first choice and all other careers as second class. I've seen and felt the pressure that parents and kids felt when particular colleges were highly touted, the ministry was referred to as 'the highest vocation'. When families chose a local secular college because 1) it fit the student's needs 2) it was more affordable, they were looked at as being worldly, having their priorities out of order (after all, studying to earn a decent living is so... carnal). Where would the church be without accountants, carpenters, plumbers, computer techs, and HVAC guys? Why aren't they honored for their career choices and hard work?

Let's face it- when the students from the ooh-aah college came home on break, you'd've thunk it was a precursor to The Second Coming- and all the students who attended other 'not recommended' or secular colleges might as well have been pond scum.

Maybe that doesn't happen in your neck of the woods, but I've seen it for 30 years in IFBdom. It's something to be very careful about, IMO.

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pastorwesh's picture

I do not think it is the church's job to promote anything outside of the Word of God. Let the colleges do their own promotion outside of the church service. We do not allow promotional videos in our church services. We do have Christian College Musical Groups come on occasion, and they are allowed to set up a display table outside of the auditorium. However, my church knows that there is no such thing as an "approved" list they must (or should) choose from.

Serving the Savior, Pastor Wes Helfenbein 2 Cor. 5:17

Dave M's picture

PastorWesh wrote:

I do not think it is the church's job to promote anything outside of the Word of God.

AMEN!!! What i've found to be even more dangerous than the 'approved list' is when some churches will promote a specific Christian institution, and that institution only. Anyone who chooses to go to a school other than this specific, approved, school, is considered to be out of God's will. I personally know someone who was told point blank by her pastor that she wasn't in the Lord's will because she didn't choose the one and only school that he deemed acceptable.

Susan R's picture


It's obvious (at least in my mind) that many authority structures overlap in places, but there's been this strange abdication of parental authority to the church... or maybe it's been the norm for eons and I've just seen it in the last couple of decades. But it creeps me out (excuse the technical jargon) when churches try to influence decisions like this. And I'm not talking about the nice kind of influence, but the "If you don't do it this way, you are not right with God" kind. How can church leadership possibly decide such things for the young people in its congregation? Do they seriously believe they can channel the Holy Spirit like that? And if they can, why don't they have an 800 number and an infomercial hosted by Dionne Warwick?

dcbii's picture


This is not really surprising, and is not just a reflection of parents carelessly abdicating their parental authority to the church. This type of thing has gone on for a long time in churches where pastors believe (even when they would deny it) that their pastoral authority gives them authority to be the sole interpreter of scriptures for the flock. This extends not only to what standards any "right with God" parents will have for their children, but all application and practical outworking of scripture, naturally including, of course, what schools parents will send their children to, both K-12 and college level. I.e., abdication of all levels of spiritual authority (including parental) is practically required, not just encouraged. Those who wish to retain their parental authority are often seen as rebellious.

There is a natural tension between "obey them that have the rule over you," and the priesthood of the believer, but there should be a clear delineation of spheres of authority. This line is crossed far too often in "fundamental" churches with only one pastor -- it's far too easy for one man to get the "Man of God" syndrome, and believe that his applications are the only ones that are scripturally correct.

Dave Barnhart

Susan R's picture


There is a natural tension between "obey them that have the rule over you," and the priesthood of the believer, but there should be a clear delineation of spheres of authority. This line is crossed far too often in "fundamental" churches with only one pastor -- it's far too easy for one man to get the "Man of God" syndrome, and believe that his applications are the only ones that are scripturally correct.

Ditto ditto ditto. And it feels very manipulative when church leadership makes it a matter of 'trust'. Sorry- it's just that when I see a pastor or deacon with serious problems in his own family (which make me wonder why he is still a pastor or deacon, but that's another thread)we are not going to trust him with life-altering decisions (for which my husband and I are responsible anyway).

But even if the pastor is discerning and perceptive, he still cannot rule every home in his church down to the last eyelash. At some point he has to realize that he doesn't have all the facts nor is he privy to all the details that impact a family's decision. He can offer his insight with that in mind, but he can't make the judgment that a family is carnal or in denial or rebelling if they don't follow his advice.

It is also problematic, IMO, to make sending a child to a secular college a sin issue, while tolerating parents in the church who send their kids to public school. I mean, if a secular education is going to cripple a young person's spirituality, wouldn't it be more likely to do so at the elementary/high school level? Why the sudden concern that a college age person is going to go astray under the same basic educational format?

DJung's picture

In fundamentalism and new-evangelicalism, Christian college has become big business. It follows from the American Church Business Model which is also big business. Power and Authority have been shifted from family to church to schools. The biggest budgets institutionally are now found in individual schools and not churches or families. The greatest influence on the next generation is in the educational philosophy promoted by colleges, accepted by churches, and implemented in families.

My biggest beef with the current educational paradigm is that we homeschool our children and/or send them to Christian schools k-12 teaching them Bible everyday of their lives (good), and then the majority (mediocre) are told they then need to go another 4-6 years to a Christian college/university/grad school, because they need more BIble and a Christian environment to become separatists, find their vocation, wife or husband, and continue to nurture in a safe environment their relationship with the Lord. I formerly held to this position. This may be needed for a minority of believers, but if Christian education and the power of salvation k-12 is powerful, then what about the great commission and reaching your generation for Christ? Send them to secular school (the majority and especially the ministry minded most spiritual) with local church discipleship to win the lost on secular college campuses across America. If they go to Christian college and graduate schools, they will in most cases never see a public school (college/university/grad school) and will not evangelize their generation nor stand apologetically for the truth before the future leaders of the nation and world.

Why do churches promote Christian College, (1) Pastors and Parents have failed to prepare the children/youth for the real world in the context of the local church and therefore the 18 year old is not ready to deal with preaching the Gospel and living out personal holiness in a threatening secular school environment--so they take the conservative safe approach (2) Pastors and Parents want their children to have the cultural and social advantages they experienced 20-30 years ago when they were students at the Christian schools, this is placing personal experience, pride, pragmatic concerns above the command to preach the Gospel to every creature during crucial college years (window of life) which can never be repeated, (3) Acceptance, Pressure, Big Business...pastors and parents are mainly connected with others outside of the local church by alumni affiliation and school allegiance which has replaced denominational loyalty. If the paradigm changed and evangelism and discipleship in secular colleges became a priority, the Christian schools would lose students, money and influence (power).

"For what should it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet lost his own soul?" Mark 8:36

"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15

Young person (18) will you choose to go reach your peers as a witness for Christ daily in a local, state, regional or national secular college campus trusting God and putting Christ and his mission first, or will you sign up to be around Christians for 4-6 years in a controlled environment safe from many of the worlds pollutions the chief being lost people?

After reading the comments in this thread, I think most pastors and church people in fundamentalism are not evaluating the benefit of Christian Colleges correctly, they miss the opportunity cost (spiritually) and are focusing their young people only on what will keep them safe and prepare them for life rather than the field that needs to be reached in College. Extension ministry is not the same as being a student in the secular school. Churches have a responsibility to reach the lost college student and the best way is for solid discipleship of church members who are college age and are encouraged to live out their witness on these campuses.

This is more than my two cents.


Rob Fall's picture

Here in the City, it's nice to have such college groups as make it west of the Rockies here at HSBC. They give us a window on the world beyond. Also as our families are only two generations deep (we're only now having teenagers who grew up in HSBC) in the church, the groups have been examples to our young people.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..