(Continued from Part I)

A Future for Christian Higher Education, Part II

Problem #2: We have a Christian leadership crisis in Canada.

Currently, most Canadian Christian leaders are in their late 50s, with 41% in senior positions aged 60 or older14 and two-thirds of senior pastors serving as their church’s only leader.15 Statistics Canada predicts that 25% of all Canadians will be seniors by 2031 with Millennials holding 50% of Canadian jobs in 2020 and 75% by 2028.16 For the church, however, there has been a sharp decline in the numbers of young adults pursuing vocational Christian leadership.17 This is exacerbated by the Canadian church’s hemorrhaging of young adult attendees,18 and by recent reports that only 7% of young adult respondents identify “church or faith community” as a place they consider themselves to be a leader.19 Although it appears that, despite fears about the COVID-19 “great resignation,” many senior Christian leaders are willing, for the time being, to hold onto leadership roles, nevertheless “leaders under the age of 40 were twice as likely to consider leaving. This creates a significant leadership pipeline challenge for the church.”20

When reflecting on the shrinking pipeline of young leaders, Barna president David Kinneman and Mark Matlock extol the value of Christian higher education, remarking, “Christian schools offer much greater exposure to deeper, sturdier Christian formation.”21 They note further:

Our research supports the contention that learning matters. Young resilient disciples report nearly double the spiritual intake in a typical year compared to habitual churchgoers and about six times the number of hours of Christian content compared to *nomads and *prodigals. Over the course of years, this adds up. The habits of learning, of steeping ourselves in a Christian way of thinking and seeing the world, matter.22

When it comes to learning, Christian education offers significant benefits for deeper Christian leadership and worldview formation compared to church alone. For church, sermons are the basic mechanism for delivering Christian education. Over a year, a churchgoer can experience up to 26 hours of passive (non-assessed) learning, assuming an average sermon length of 30 minutes and perfect church attendance over 52 weeks. By comparison, one academic year (typically 8 months) of Christian higher education delivers 260-300 hours of active (student assessed) learning, equivalent to more than ten years of sermons. And according to a 2007 Ipsos Reid study, those young adults who do attend Canadian Christian higher education institutions are shown to be “more committed to the Christian faith than Main sample respondents.”23

When it comes to learning, Christian education offers significant benefits for deeper Christian leadership and worldview formation compared to church alone.

Despite these benefits, however, in Canada “the secular system has reshaped the culture’s understanding of the good citizen away from the vision of the [Christian Higher Education Movement], making recruitment more difficult.”24

Lower recruitment introduces a third problem – both for Christian higher education and for the church.

To be continued…

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

14 WayBase “The Next Normal: The Future of Christian Ministries and Churches in Canada: 2022 National Survey Summary Report,” accessible at https://www.waybase.com/en-CA/research/reports/2022/summary, p. 5.

15 David Hazzard, “PAOC Theological Education/Leadership Development: Present Realities. Special Report delivered to the Educational Standards Committee and District Superintendents of the PAOC May 31, 2018.” Report.

16 Statistics Canada, “Saskatchewan Population by Age and Sex Report.” Accessible at: http://www.stats.gov.sk.ca/stats/pop/2016%20Age%20and%20Sex.pdf.

17 According to a 2016 Barna report, only 8% of Christian prospective students are contemplating a ministry degree, and most Canadian Bible colleges would report a substantial decline in overall attendance over the past twenty years. Barna Group, “What’s Next for Biblical Higher Education: How Bible Colleges Can Prepare for the Church’s Future” (2017). Seminaries are faring better, with FTEs holding steady since 2011. See “Appendix A” in Stanley E. Porter and Bruce G. Fawcett, eds, Christian Education in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities (Pickwick, 2020), p. 331.

18 Noted above. See EFC, “Hemorrhaging,” and Barna, “Connected,” p. 42.

19 Barna, “Connected,” p. 36. Though it is perhaps significant that 27% felt inspired to be a leader based the example of someone at their church.

20 Waybase, “Next Normal,” p. 5.

21 David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon (Baker, 2019), p. 163.

22 Kinnaman and Matlock, Faith, p. 95. In Kinneman’s vocabulary, *Nomads, representing the largest percentage of young adults, are “comprised of 18- to 29-year-olds with a Christian background who walk away from church engagement but still consider themselves Christians.” *Prodigals are “young adults who used to claim a personal faith, but no longer claim any Christian belief.” See “Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials,” at https://

23 Rick Hiemstra, “Competition for Character Education: What Emerging Adulthood Means for Christian Higher Education in Canada,” in Stanley E. Porter and Bruce G. Fawcett, eds., Christian Education in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities (Pickwick, 2020), p. 120.

24 Hiemstra, “Competition,” pp. 119-120.

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