“What can we do to ensure that Bethany Lutheran College will remain a confessional Lutheran college in the future?” This question came my way from an alumnus who sent children to Bethany and hopes to send grandchildren there. When we see what has happened to other church-supported Lutheran colleges that allow non-Christian professors in their religion departments, this question is necessary to ask, and the answers are vital for the future of our college.
As a liberal arts college, Bethany provides the kind of education our synod and our young people need. During its history, Bethany Lutheran College has been blessed with gifted leaders who understood the importance of both a liberal arts and a Christian education.
What can we do? The following is what I answered. First and foremost: support your synodically-owned college. This support can take many forms. One thing that we can all do is pray. Ask God to bless the college, its faculty, staff, and students, so that they gladly hear and believe God’s Word. Pray that God would continue to give Bethany the professors and students to keep our college as a light shining into the world.
Second, talk with your pastor about the important role that Bethany has played in your and your children’s lives. Encourage him to promote the college in his confirmation classes and to the church families. They need to know that Bethany not only offers a top-quality education, but also “an education that lasts beyond a lifetime.” This means that Bethany integrates Bible truths into the students’ education and provides many opportunities for worship and student support, in order that students may grow in their faith and develop into future leaders in their congregations and communities.
Third, ensuring that Bethany remains a confessional Lutheran college means encouraging talented young Christian men and women to pursue a Ph.D. in their areas of interest. Lutherans with Ph.D.s are needed in higher education at Bethany. Many do not realize that being a Ph.D. graduate student can be a paid job. While programs may vary, a graduate student will typically have some teaching responsibilities in exchange for a tuition waiver and a livable wage for one person.
Bethany Lutheran College looks for qualified faculty within our fellowship. When those people are not available in a particular academic area, it prevents the college from developing those new programs. A doctorate in nursing is one example of this. Encourage your pastor to keep Bethany informed about college professors who are members of your congregation.
Fourth, support the college financially. Bethany uses your financial contributions for its daily operations, for special projects, and for scholarship support of its students. The college depends on outside support to keep education costs affordable. Ninety-eight percent of Bethany students receive some form of financial aid to help them pay for college. Your gifts and congregation scholarships can help young people you know decide to attend Bethany.
Fifth, tell other students and parents about Bethany Lutheran College. Our college is not only for Lutherans. Many students at Bethany have come to faith through what they have learned in their religion classes, chapel services, and the Christian witness of faculty, staff, and fellow students. Some people who once came to Bethany for athletics, convenience, or some other reason are now members of our clergy, committed to serving the Lord. Others are active members in their congregations. For a long time, Bethany has been an important mission outreach.
Finally, attend a Bethany Lutheran College Auxiliary meeting in your area, or start one if there is none available to you. You will not only hear about the work of the college, but also have opportunity to pray for it and support its work. Bethany graduates live throughout the United States and may not be far from you. Have them come to a youth group or hold a Bethany night at your church and have a graduate share what being a student at Bethany has meant to them.
Just over 85 years ago, our synod purchased Bethany Lutheran College. The list of past faculty and administrators is a picture of their faithfulness to a Christian liberal arts education. These people have blessed many generations of students with the “one thing needful,” teaching the message that Jesus is the Savior of the world. One cannot put a price tag on the number of souls whose faith was nurtured, increased, and even begun while students at Bethany. Because of this, Bethany’s mission as a Christ-centered liberal arts college remains vital to future students and vital to our synod. Your interest in Bethany and its mission is also vital to that future.