They are right both times. The church right now? For sure. The church of the future? We’re counting on that.
Will you be tomorrow’s church leaders? Will you serve as church school teachers, worship and music directors, youth sponsors, deacons, elders, pastors, mission co-workers, ministry team leaders, commissioned lay pastors, church Web site managers, and the like? Will you remember why doing such things is important, while you’re launching a career, starting a family, and making all those other life decisions that await your action in the next decade?
Through the past couple of centuries lots of folks spilled much sweat to help people like you make informed decisions so you can live a life that matters. Of those efforts, one of the chief was to establish church-related colleges and universities all around our country. Their gratitude for God’s mercy, combined with their determination to make good on the vows they made at your baptisms, drove them to launch such schools.
They were thinking, praying, and working for you.
Not by name — many lived and died long before you came along. But they were organizing, building, hiring teachers, fundraising, coaching, researching, scheduling, and doing a host of other things to provide a place for learning for you and others like you.
Like Noah building an ark on dry land, many of them were ridiculed for their foolishness: building a small school under the shadow of a huge state university, or in an off-the-beaten-track country town or on a tiny plot of land. But they worked, knowing that they were building a distinctly different center for learning, one that not only would empower students to become experts in a major field of endeavor but would also help them become well-informed across academic disciplines. Their students not only would specialize; they would also integrate math with literature, history with science, human behavior with art.
They would learn to think.
And, in particular, they would wrestle the points of convergence between faith and reason.
These students also would not be treated as mere containers for knowledge but persons comprised of body, mind, and spirit. Their education would be transformational, helping them mature into conduits for caring, into partners — alongside professors and administrators — for service, and into citizen-leaders of a needy world.
Through recent decades these schools have fallen behind in one way: a rapid growth in costs has pushed tuition, housing, and fees sky-high. These schools have held fast to their independence — thereby missing out on the funding that the tax base provides the state universities. Funding from the institutional church has more than left them behind; such funding has evaporated. Nevertheless, church folks do continue to give, especially to their respective alma maters. But add that all together, and these private school degrees come with a high price tag.
But the resulting education is worth every hour of part-time and summer employment required of the students, and it pays a big return on most every dollar of educational debt accrued in the process of studying, discussing, reading, and writing.
We have prepared this edition of The Presbyterian Outlook with you in mind because we also think it worth our investment of time and our effort to pool some of the best ideas, plus a few drops of sweat, to highlight for you some of the best gifts the older church folks — like our regular readers — have prepared for you to enjoy.
MEMO TO: The older readers overhearing this:
By all means, please bring others into the conversation. Your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandkids, and neighbor kids might well welcome your counsel on how they, who are the church of today, can best be the church of tomorrow. Pass around your copy, or even consider buying more to give away. Good news is made to be shared.