(Continued from Part IV)

A Future for Christian Higher Education, Part V

Collaborating Across the Christian Higher Education Sector

There is often a spoken or assumed expectation by those outside the sector that Christian higher education institutions ought to find deeper ways to collaborate. The sentiment is affirmed by those within the sector44 and in practice institutions are generally generous about things like sharing policy, referring students to rival institutions that better suit the student’s academic aims, and offering friendship, moral support, and prayer across the aisles.

For deeper collaboration, however, it needs to be recognized that this is something easier said than done. Institutions develop unique cultures and operate with diverse academic aims and levels. Significantly, most institutions have fewer students or resources than they need – especially since COVID, and many carry debts and structural deficits. In such a scarcity environment this creates something of a “prisoner’s dilemma,” where collaboration might benefit the whole sector but at the potential cost to a few. Who budges first?

Of course, the relief of financial distress would release higher levels of collaboration – ultimately, the sector is “Kingdom-minded” and roots for rivals.45 Such relief would need to come from outside the sector, however, perhaps as outlined in the section below. But besides finances, often sentiment gets in the way of collaboration.46 As one example, several years ago Horizon offered a struggling college the opportunity to co-berth at Horizon’s facilities, sharing place and key personnel, but to retain programmatic and degree-granting autonomy. The board was split with the majority preferring that the college remain at its property and release its historic educational mandate to instead become a one-year discipleship school.

Got Milk campaign ran in the 1990s

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

One cross-sector collaborative possibility would be a shared high-level advertising campaign focused on promoting Christian higher education like the “Got milk?” campaign still running in Canada and the US today. In the 1990s, the California Milk Processor board looked to boost the overall sales of milk and launched the “Got milk?” advertising campaign. The campaign did not favour a particular dairy or brand but aimed to increase overall milk awareness and consumption, generically benefiting all dairies and brands. Similarly, a high-level campaign promoting the benefits of Christian higher education could be a win generically for all Christian higher education institutions and, ultimately, the church.

Support from the Broader Christian Community

Finally, when considering how Christian higher education can overcome its lower enrolments and decreased financial supports and continue to fulfil its leadership pipeline mandate in Canada, it must be admitted that there is only so much that can be accomplished internally. In the current and increasing resource famine, Christian higher education needs new support from something like a “Joseph fund.”

After Joseph’s brothers kidnapped and sold him as a slave to Egypt, he later came to realize that he was sent there for a reason. God sent Joseph to anticipate a devastating famine that would destroy his people, but provided him position and seven years of plenty to provide for it. Christian higher education anticipates its own impending famine, and the signs suggest that the seven-year countdown clock has already been ticking for some time. As Israel had Joseph, Christian higher education needs people of position and plenty to provide for it.

In fact, help cannot come soon enough. Even making all sorts of internal adaptations and collaborating kindly across the sector, for some institutions two years of COVID is threatening imminently to wipe them out before such adjustments can take effect. There is an immediate need for debt and deficit relief.

In the immediate to mid-term, as Christian higher education prepares to face Canada’s changing moral and legal landscape, institutions that can ill afford it will need assistance with legal counsel to examine their institutional policies for protection against ideologically-driven threats and, possibly, with legal representation in the unhappy circumstance they find themselves in lawsuits.

Finally, in the mid- to long-term, Christian higher education needs a dependable alternative income stream to replace any government dependence, declining donations, and smaller student sizes. The Canadian remnant church may be smaller than the churches of previous generations, but it is vital and vitally needs robustly biblical, intelligently competent, Spirit-empowered leaders to guide it.

As God preserved Israel through a long famine, a “Joseph fund” can help preserve Christian higher education and the church it is called to serve.

Canada Christian student

Conclusion

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus introduced the church as his witness to the world. Since shortly after that time, Christian higher education has existed to prepare leaders for Christ’s church. As Canada’s social, spiritual, and moral landscape changes, and as the contemporary Canadian church wrestles through its integrity and identity, we see a remnant church emerging with pockets of resilient disciples stepping up to lead it.

As Christian higher education adapts to its new landscape, collaborates across the sector, and secures new support to ensure its mandate to prepare leaders for the church is secure, we are confident that the Canadian church will be the robustly biblical, intelligently competent, Spirit-empowered church it was meant to be.

Canada church decline
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Read Part I

______________________
Dr. Jeromey Martini, President, Horizon College & Seminary and Professor of New Testament Studies

44 Anecdotally, this has been a repeatedly expressed desire (without solution) in multiple multi-institutional gatherings I am part of, including Christian Higher Education Canada, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Presidents’ meetings, and the Saskatchewan Association of Theological Colleges.

45 The important premise in Peter Greer and Chris Horst, Rooting for Rivals: How Collaboration and Generosity Increase the Impact of Leaders, Charities, and Churches (Bethany House, 2018).

46 Stanley Porter reports his own frustrations with and reasons for institutional unwillingness to consolidate. Porter, “The Past,” p. 202.

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