Though you might expect to hear this during Christmas season, I usually hum the tune to “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” during the next few weeks. For me, the first week of class and commencement week are my two favorite times of the year. I love seeing the students return from summer break! (Especially this year!) I love that classes are starting up again. I love the smell of a freshly printed syllabus in the morning! It really is the best time of the year.
What makes it so great? I work at a college devoted to helping people understand and live out the Bible. Every class — from Bible Survey to English, and all the classes in between — are fully based on the Christian worldview, with a ministry focus. Students are learning what the Bible says, how they should live as Christians, how to help other people understand the Bible, and how to communicate all those truths. It really is the best place on Earth.
So, to all the Bible college students out there, enjoy this! These next four years will be some of the best. Here are a few tidbits of advice to help you make the most of them.
1. Prioritize the Eternal
This will sound funny coming from a teacher, but don’t work so hard to get straight A’s that you don’t learn the material. You might think that getting straight A’s would mean you learned the content perfectly. Well, maybe. Some are pretty good at memorization in the short term. But later on they don’t seem to see the value or significance of what they learned. Remember that education is more than just grades on a transcript.
At the end of your time at Faith, you want to look back and see changes that go deeper than your diploma. You want to see the Lord refine your character, renew your mind, and grow your faith. We teachers love the classroom. But none of us think it is the goal of your life. You learn in the classroom so you can take what you have learned in the classroom to the world outside of the classroom. The great commission in the classroom (teaching them to obey) is meant to change who you are outside the classroom (going into all the world).
2. Get Good Grades
Of course, education is not less than good grades either. Spend serious time working at your studies. The effort you give to learn theology or memorize the key facts from your Bible Survey classes will not be useless the day after you finish the course. That knowledge will serve you as you walk with the Lord.
But it’s more than that. Memorization, comprehension, analysis, and all the rest, it all helps your to refine your ability to think. Strong thinking skills enable you to be ready to tackle tough issues of life with the Bible in your hand. Writing papers prepares you to form clear opinions (hopefully based on Biblical principles) that will help you to walk in the truth all the days of your life. Grades can be a measurement to help you see how you are progressing in this area.
3. Don’t Waste Your Gen Eds
I often tell my Bible Study students that one of the reasons they should take English Grammar seriously is that it will help them better study their English Bibles. It’s usually at that point I learn what my students look like when they stare in disbelief. Really, I’m serious! You may not know what a gerund is or a participle, but you should at least know what a verb is, as well as a noun or pronoun. Conjunctions? Very important! Prepositions? They relate to everything (see what I did there?).
Another reason to take Gen Eds seriously is the content. Most of the time Gen Ed courses are just extended introductions to the contents of Psalm 19:1-6. Math is a testimony to the glory of the God who created everything in the universe by the word of his mouth. And it all added up perfectly! Biology? Just another example of the creative genius of our Lord. And not to mention the complexity we see in all organic life. You think a cell is a small and simple thing? No way. It’s about as simple as a major city. Don’t believe me? Just ask our biology professor Mr. Fritz. He can explain the complexities, and as he does you will marvel in the intelligence of the Creator of the universe.
4. Work Together
I often tell my Greek students that the only reason I made it through my first year of Greek is that I studied with another student who understood the material very well. On my own, I would have been totally confused. It was essential that I worked with another student.
Study groups can be a great way to strengthen your academic life, and at the same time get to know other believers. There is just something about sitting around in a group and studying the Bible together. But not only that, studying history or science or math or counseling . . . it all gives an opportunity for you to get to know the other believers in your dorm. And many times these study groups lay the foundation for working together in ministry outside of the dorm.
5. Soak Up the Opportunities
You likely won’t have another 4 years in the future where you can drop everything, go to a new location, and devote yourself to learning and growing in the Word of God. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Take it. Take it seriously. Soak it up. If you have the opportunity to volunteer for a youth conference at the college, take it. Yeah, it will be a sacrifice of your time, but when will you get this opportunity again? When Refresh Conference happens, volunteer to serve wherever you are able. Never worked at a summer camp? Start asking questions when camp directors stop by campus. You won’t regret learning to minster by ministering with those who have experience.
6. Read Good Books and Talk About Them With Your Friends
You read a lot already in college. But you can read an extra chapter a week. You can. Honestly. You just need a little less social media in your life. Find a few friends and grab a book your prof recommends. Read a chapter a week and get together to talk about it. This is a habit that will pay off in the long run.
I’ve been a part of a reading group for a few years. We have met many times to talk through books. Often our conversations meander a bit off topic, but that is usually the best part. When you meet with fellow believers to read and think together, you really are engaging in what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend.” Want to be sharp? Get a reading group going.
7. Love These Years, But Look Forward to the Future
People often make it sound like college is the best time ever, and you will never be able to go back, and life is sort of worse after that. I don’t agree. College is very good in many ways. It’s a wonderful time. But life is good too. College is part of what God has allowed to help some people prepare for their lives. But at the end of the day, it’s about what’s coming next.
So love your days in college. Make friends. Play hard. Work hard. Read books. Meditate on the Word of God. Serve others. Pray for each other. Bear one another’s burdens. And have a little fun every now and then.
But above all these things, set your mind on things above. Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Make college about your soul, not yourself. Grow in your walk with God, so that when you graduate you can see the spiritual “A’s” as well as the A’s on your transcript.
I look forward to seeing some of you in class!
1 Timothy 4:15
“Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.”