Those of us in adult higher education know, for the most part, why adults decide to return to college. We hear the reasons several times a day, and we repeat them as we engage prospective students in dialogue about returning to college. Adults are typically looking to get a better job, set themselves up for a promotion, make more money, be an example to their kids, and finish what they started. There’s nothing wrong with this list. These are all noble reasons for continuing one’s education. However, as someone who attempts to incorporate a biblical worldview into his thinking, I would like to make an addition to the list. Adults should pursue a college education because God requires that we be stewards of what he has given us. Let me explain.
In Genesis 1:28, God tells his human creation that they are to have dominion over all that he has created. This was to include the physical environment and, as it developed over time, the social-cultural environment. God expects us to be stewards or caretakers over all of his creation and, as a result of the fall, to partner with him in its restoration. We cannot be effective stewards of God’s creation unless we are constantly learning about it. This requires us to become lifelong learners. Our adult students at Belhaven learn about God’s physical creation in their biology classes. They not only learn to marvel at God’s awesome majesty as it’s revealed in creation; they learn ways to become more responsible stewards of what he has made. Our students learn about the socio-cultural environment in sociology and psychology classes, and that responsibilities in these areas involve, among other things, being our brother’s keeper. Adult students learn to be stewards of the business environment in their business and leadership classes as they learn the importance of engaging in “business by The Book.”
In a way, our typical list of reasons for adults returning to school are at best pragmatic, and if we’re not careful in how we present them, perhaps a bit self-centered. We need to balance them with biblical-centered reasons for life-long learning that are focused on stewardship.
So, I have a proposal for those of us whose work is to make adult education attractive to prospective students. We should acknowledge that pragmatic reasons for returning to college are important. Better jobs, promotions, and increases in income are all important potential outcomes to prospective students who have current and future needs that can be met by earning their degrees. However, a biblical worldview requires us to go deeper and acknowledge that education is a tool that allows us to learn more about the creation that God requires us to steward. An undergraduate or graduate degree earned as a developing caretaker of God’s creation provides a pathway to effective participation in his kingdom work.