By Barry Creamer; reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.
2018 was a banner year for Criswell College. We celebrated our one-year anniversary as an Oikonomia Network partner school, and we took steps to begin the largest and most comprehensive undertaking in the school’s nearly 50-year history.
Ministry-Minded in All Vocations
While many of our graduates in the past have gone on to work in churches, on the mission field, and in other “ministry”-related vocations, our goal moving forward is to continue bridging the sacred/secular divide as we produce graduates in every field who are “ministry-minded.” In our view, a ministry-minded student is one whose heart’s desire is to follow God in obedience regardless of where their paycheck comes from, and we believe that the world needs more of these kinds of leaders in every sphere of cultural impact.
One of the highlights of our year was hosting Senator James Lankford on our campus in September, a leader in the United States government who perfectly represents this mentality. Himself a former student pastor, Lankford explained that after he was elected, many people told him that while he had been “in ministry” before, his role as a Senator was not a ministry and he therefore needed to set his faith aside.
Lankford told us he would smile and say: “What you’re asking me to do is go to Washington and be something different than I am. I’m not going to do that. I think that’s hypocritical.…I’m going to stay the same person I was before.”
Expanding our Service
For the majority of our history, our college drew primarily commuter students who were attracted to the rigorous biblical education provided at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. More recently, as we added programs such as the B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and the M.A. in Counseling, we saw an increase in students who were looking for a biblically rooted education with practical and pragmatic application for vocations outside of the church. The long-term goal, however, was always to build an on-campus residence hall that would draw more traditional students.
Over the summer, we were able to announce the receipt of a $5 million commitment that will serve as the lead gift for the college’s first-ever residence hall, tentatively set to break ground in the spring. It is unquestionably the most significant thing to happen since W.A. Criswell announced his vision to start this school in 1969, and will be a complete game-changer not only financially, but in what it means for us going forward.
The anonymous donor had no previous ties to Criswell and had never made a financial gift of any kind to the college, and the $5 million commitment is the largest-ever gift in the college’s history.
Alongside this significant project, our Executive Cabinet and Board of Trustees have spent significant time planning and discussing the next phase of the college’s growth. Based on institutional research and industry best-practices, we are excited to be shifting toward a Distinctive Program Model that will incorporate high-impact educational practices and institutional learning outcomes into a common student experience.
One of our PPE students who will be graduating this May has been doing an internship at First Liberty here in Dallas and recently took the LSAT, receiving a near-perfect score. She has already been accepted to a handful of the top-five schools she has applied to and is waiting to interview with a few more. Regardless of where she ultimately decides to attend, we are proud to see a Criswell graduate going into the world of law and justice with the solid biblical education she has received here.
This year, we had a collection of both full- and part-time faculty attend the Karam Forum. As we transition toward the common student experience that will soon be a part of defining Criswell College, we are hoping to plug all of our students into work and internship opportunities that will give them real-world experience in the fields in which they are studying. I look forward to the theology of work being even further integrated into our curriculum, and we are excited to see how our professors will find more opportunities to make the priorities of the Oikonomia Network evident in more of our classes.
Barry Creamer is president and professor of humanities at Criswell College.