Dr. Long specializes in the literary analysis of Hebrew narrative, has an infectious passion for archaeology, and has authored a commentary on 1 & 2 Kings. He also holds several master’s degrees and earned his Ph.D. in Old Testament from Drew University.

Envisioning Our Future: The Alfred and Patricia Smith College of Biblical Studies

All signs indicate that higher education is in flux. With increasing costs, advancing technologies and associated educational delivery systems, shifting demographics, changing social perceptions about the value of a college education, and mounting political pressure to make our product more affordable and relevant, college administrators often find themselves in a quandary about the future. A generation from now, what will a college education look like, and how do we prepare now to meet the changes that are suggested by current trends?

Perhaps more worrisome for a Christian institution of higher education like LCU, however, we are also witnessing the further secularization of both our culture and the academy. How do we maintain our identity in the context of a culture that is increasingly more secular and less appreciative of the value of a Christian education? In a related but perhaps even weightier matter, students are coming to us as a product of this more material world view and are less prepared to face the academic and social challenges of a college education. How do we address their needs in a way that matures them to adulthood academically, socially, and spiritually?

The College of Biblical Studies and Behavioral Science has been agile in responding to current trends in higher education, in part, by developing online graduate programs in biblical studies, human services, and counseling. Online, hybrid, and electronically enhanced courses are now common offerings within our college. Faculty are increasingly adept in the application of newer technologies and pedagogical developments, using tablet computing, mobile learning, and flipped classrooms to more effectively relate to the present-day learner.

In the context of a more secular culture, the College of Biblical Studies and Behavioral Sciences is especially concerned with the spiritual development of students. Encouraged by a presidential initiative to advance a conversation on campus about the interaction between faith and learning, the college continues to pursue ways of engaging students spiritually. Core Bible classes for every student, discipline specific efforts to integrate faith and learning in our classrooms, programs to expose students to opportunities for church and community service (e.g., in the Healthy Families and Youth and Family Ministry Conferences), and opportunities for mission experiences in a variety of places and contexts (including an annual Social Work trip to South Africa and Bible Department internships in East Africa) are some of the ways in which our college is attempting to influence students spiritually.

Beyond these efforts, Dr. Steve Bonner, Associate Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture, has led a research team that is analyzing LCU students in order to determine why “contemporary students show a decline in academic ability, personal responsibility, and social awareness when compared to entering students two decades ago.” Students are looking for deeper meaning in life, but the preliminary results of the study indicate that midadolescence is expanding and that incoming students need adult support and modeling to mature into adulthood. This research has important implications for what we do in our curricular and co-curricular offerings and has initiated a conversation on how to foster growth among students in a way that encourages spiritual maturity. Behavioral Science involvement in LCU’s summer Flight Plan camp for first generation students is one way we are helping students become more academically, socially, and spiritually prepared for higher education at a Christian university.

While these are uncertain times for higher education, with increased faith and a continued emphasis on our heritage as a Christian university, the challenges before us become opportunities. They are opportunities to allow our God to work in us as a contrast to the prevailing secular world view and to influence students in ways that are godly. The future we envision from this God-centered perspective is bright.

[1] Steven Bonner, “Extended Midadolescence & Entering College Students: Quantitative Evidence of Diminished Logical & Moral Cognitive Development” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators, Chicago, IL, October 2013). 

[1] See, e.g., “The Spiritual Life of College Students: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose,” Higher Education Research Institute, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, 2004 [cited 08 Feb. 2014]. Online: http://spirituality.ucla.edu/docs/reports/Spiritual_Life_College_Students_Full_Report.pdf.