Would we gain students but lose donors?

Having to bring drug-sniffing dogs onto a Christian campus is a good learning opportunity.

This school was not careful enough in vetting their new students for Christian commitment.  Although they only accept Christian students, anyone can write a testimony and get a reference.  The administrators learned this lesson quite quickly.

But how did a Christian school get into such a predicament?

A Reason for Christian Schools to Lose Donors

Schools tend to grow and branch out—even Christian schools.  As they do, they add new degrees and sometimes drift away from their original Christian mission.  Even if they do not drift, supporters are sometimes distrustful of the effects the growth will have on that Christian mission. Merely publicizing that instructors integrate their faith and their scholarship may not be enough to win back or keep donor confidence.

Frankly, many professors with secular degrees are not well-equipped to integrate their faith and their scholarship.  So, to keep the supporters whose donations were motivated by a more Bible-centric curriculum, a new and more inspiriting vision must be promoted.  And, in developing into a Christian Liberal Arts College, administrators can develop incredible vision for evangelism and discipleship.

Let’s take a look at how two Christian schools that are diversifying their curriculum and are implementing such an inspiring vision.

A Christian School with Non-Christian Students

A school that I am helping achieve accreditation (not the one mentioned above) has two degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity.  To my surprise, I found that the majority of their students are not even Christians.  So why would they enroll?

Almost all of the students are on foreign student study visas (i.e., F-1s). Foreign student recruiters brought in lots of students because the school was cheap and easy. Since the school has engaged me to help them through accreditation, we are upgrading their standards of quality and rigor. And, considering the students they had enrolled, we asked what God’s purpose would be for that school.

The answer:  it is not for training ministers. It is for evangelism and discipleship.

To fulfill this new purpose, we added an institutional goal:

All students demonstrate the ability to share the Gospel.

This, of course, would be an appropriate goal for theological students.  But, this is also an excellent goal for non-Christian students at a Christian school. Every student must memorize evangelistic presentations (including the verses). They write this out on an essay test. Then, they meet with a staff member to share “their faith.”

After they finish, the staff member will smile and ask, “Have you done that yet?  Would you like to pray with me right now?”

Although the school is adding new degree programs, it has already built a testimony that will touch the heart of Christian supporters. Even before adding this new institutional goal, they have been winning to faith students from Mongolia, China, Japan, and more. Now, we expect their evangelistic fruit to increase. Thus, they do not expect to lose donors by adding “secular” degrees.

A Bible College

Another of my clients is a Bible college that has added a few new degrees that do not relate to pastoral training. All the new students are supposed to be Christian. That does not mean they all are.

Furthermore, the type of students enrolling in these vocation-related programs do not show the same level of Christian commitment that they had when they were only offering programs in biblical and pastoral studies.

In addition to implementing the same institutional goal mentioned above (i.e., that all students be able to share the Gospel), they also want to address issues of dedication. Because those who defend or promote a position become more committed to it, their students must all write devotionals on why it is important to be a deeply dedicated follower of Jesus Christ.

Let them grapple with specified verses. Let them talk themselves into the importance of Christian commitment.

Having the students preach to us and each other is much more impactful than our preaching to them. Including some of those student sermons in the school newsletter can make it unlikely that the college will lose donors.

Don’t Fear

Would your school lose donors if you added degree programs, admitted non-Christian students, and even transitioned into a Christian liberal arts college?

It doesn’t have to be so.

Who wouldn’t support your school once you present plenty of testimonies of how effectively your school wins and disciples people for the Lord


  • David Agron, Ph.D.

    Dr. Agron is the managing editor of Christian Academia Magazine. He also serves as an accreditation consultant. Since 1999, Agron & Associates, Inc. has specialized in helping Christian colleges achieve accreditation. In both roles, his mission is to help raise up Christian colleges in quality, quantity, reputation and impact for the Kingdom of God. If you would like to discuss how his firm can help your school achieve accreditation, contact him at [email protected].

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