As a youth pastor, I knew it was my job to prepare students for the next stage of their lives. After all, they don’t stay sixteen forever. Eventually they graduate from high school and are forced to make a decision: enter the workplace, serve in the military, take a gap year and backpack Europe, or pursue a college education. All four of those options are honorable, and can lead to the kind of personal growth and experiences that effectively grow boys and girls into men and women.
If I were a business owner, an Army recruiter, or a travel agent, I would advocate doing one of the first three options. But since I serve in Assemblies of God (AG) higher education, I have a natural bias toward students continuing their education after high school. Here are a few reasons why.
Christian colleges—like the ones we are privileged to have in the AG—offer a great deal in the way of discipleship. Students on our campuses can’t walk ten feet without bumping into an opportunity to grow in their faith, serve others, and learn more about God and His Word. And in such a formative stage of life, I really believe that your students will benefit from attending a college where they don’t have to fight for their spiritual life every time they walk into a classroom or interact with a roommate.
Most any accredited college a student might attend will prepare them reasonably well for their career (or careers, since most students will have multiple during their lifetime). The value of a Christian college is that you learn how to be a Christian professional. In a culture that teaches students to enter the workforce and pursue personal ambition, financial gain, power, and influence, Christian colleges champion ideas like servant leadership, generosity, and ethical living. Given a choice of the two, I would take the latter for my students any day of the week.
Simply put, when students get out into the world, many of their open doors will be about what they know (see Career Preparation above) and who they know. While it’s true they can build a network at any school, the opportunity to build a network of like-minded believers who can offer support and help to them throughout their life and career is an advantage found in attending a Christian college. While I want my students interacting with unbelievers for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship, there are a lot of ways they can get that experience outside of the classroom and campus (e.g., a job or volunteer roles).
If your student feels called to vocational ministry, I truly believe there is no better place for them to prepare for that calling than in one of our AG colleges. An AG school will help them prepare theologically, spiritually, relationally, and organizationally. Students who attend AG schools often report an easier transition into ministry than those who do not, and I think much of that is related to what was said about building a network. Attending an AG school naturally gives them access to a network of AG leaders, churches, and organizations that they otherwise would not have immediate access to.
I get it, college is expensive enough to begin with. Add to that the even higher cost of attending a private Christian school and you have an education with a price tag that seems overwhelming and a little ridiculous. Plainly stated, I can’t fix that. What I can say is there are alternatives to student loans that lead to debilitating debt. A commitment to work your way through college, diligence in applying for scholarships, and the decision to take dual credit courses while still in high school can go a long way in slashing the long-term cost of college. And while there aren’t easy solutions to this cost issue, what the AG can do is offer scholarships like the Ashcroft-Riggs National Youth Scholarship to help students attending an AG school get a financial head start.
If you know any high school seniors considering an AG college, share this information with them and make sure they know about the Ashcroft-Riggs Scholarship. Recipients are awarded between $5,000 and $30,000, which is a great payoff for filling out a simple application.
As your students are thinking about where to continue their education, I hope you will encourage them to consider one of our AG colleges. They can find links to each one at colleges.ag.org.
Director—Alliance for AG Higher Education