The Voice: Summer 2001
Getting an education for service
It's not every day that I get invited to a luncheon honoring an inductee in the College Football
Hall of Fame. And because Dordt College has never even had a football program, obviously the
inductee being honored was not one of our graduates. Yet he had attended a small college in
Iowa just about the same size as Dordt. And, after an outstanding career in the National Football
League, he was now an agriculturalist in our community.
The reason he hadn't been honored earlier was because the College Football Hall of Fame generally had honored only those players who were from major college programs who had achieved success in the pro ranks. When they finally got around to realizing that some of the outstanding athletes in the sport had attended non-scholarship programs in small colleges, they realized our local hero belonged in the gallery of outstanding players.
So it was a great day for Sioux Center, and we applauded the character and achievements of this former professional player who had left his small town, attended a small college in another small town, and had made his mark on the national sport scene.
Yet what I will always remember most was the speech that this local sports hero gave at the end of the festivities. His comments concluded something like this: I will always be grateful to my parents who allowed me to turn down a full scholarship to a Division I football program at a major university and allowed me instead to attend a college where I could get an education.
I've reflected often on that statement over the past few years while visiting with outstanding high school graduates. Some have excelled in academic achievement. Some have distinguished themselves in music, theater, or other arts. Others have attained notable success in athletic competition. And most have caught the attention of scouts from major universities who dangle before them large scholarships and promises of fame at a large or well-known institution.
What never ceases to amaze me is how much adulation and enticement gets heaped on seventeen or eighteen-year-old adolescents who then feel the pressure of making a decision that will help determine the course of their entire lifetime. With promises of four years of excitement, fame, and money, recruitment specialists pressure these youth to make commitments that will, whether they know it or not, shape the next seventy or possible eighty years of their lives.
Suddenly, high school students whose previous major decisions typically involved deciding between brands of pizza and athletic shoes have to sort through a decision that, next to marriage, will be the most life-forming decision they ever make.
At that point, it seems to me, parents, extended family, friends, and the Christian community need to provide a context of support in which these decisions can be made wisely. We have generations of experience and wisdom within our families and our Christian fellowship. What a blessing it would be to use these gifts to help Christian young people make educational choices that will benefit both them and the Christian community for the decades to come.
Perhaps we can help these talented high school graduates in several ways. First, we can affirm and celebrate with them the wonderful gifts that God has granted them: applaud their performances, cheer their athletic milestones, and commend the recognitions of scholarship that come their way. These need to be occasions of joy and congratulations. Second, we can help them evaluate their gifts within the context of serving the kingdom of Jesus Christ for a lifetime. Because their life experiences are limited, young people have a real challenge in being able to see long term horizons. The excitement of the next few years can easily obscure the opportunities of a lifetime. That's where the insights of families and the Christian community can be our gift to them.
Of course, as a Christian college, we have a responsibility to provide an educational context in which these gifts that God has given Christian youth can be recognized, celebrated, and nurtured. We have to make sure we don't force our prospective students to choose between serving Christ and fulfilling their legitimate hopes and aspirations.
But then as Christian parents and friends, it is our responsibility to encourage excited,
talented young people to take advantage of such educational experiences. We can help them understand the long-term benefits to themselves and to Christ's kingdom even though it may cost a little more in the short term or mean deferring some short term recognition.
When we all do our part in this process, perhaps the next generation of successful Christian adults will thank us for allowing them also to turn down the enticements of the moment in order to attend an institution where they could get a God-centered education-and be prepared for a lifetime in the Savior's service.