This is the first part of ...

Matt asked:

This is the first part of an ongoing correspondence in response to this question.

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Jack,

I just read your response to the reader whose son wants to skip college and go into missions.  Unfortunately, I think you placed too much value on higher education and overlooked any discussion on cost.

I agree that depending on what kind of work the young man wants to do, a degree or trade school could be of a lot of value.  But what about the cost?  Does meaningful and profitable ministry only come with $100k in student loans and an art history degree?  How many people can't go into ministry because they get bogged down in debt and are are stuck trying to pay it off?

My only point is that there is wisdom to this decision and getting degrees for the sake of having one can still be a waste in an era that overvalues overpriced and relatively useless college diplomas.

Sincerely,

Matt

Jack Answered:

Thanks, Matt, for your response to my reply to the mother whose son wants to skip college and go into missions.  

I appreciate your recognition of the current astronomic cost of higher education and the staggering debt it can produce. This is a factor that has to be considered soberly. However, some further observations on my part:

I’m glad that you recognize that “a degree or trade school could be of a lot of value.” But then you downplay its importance in your last sentence with the phrase “relatively useless college diploma”, illustrated by the possibility of his obtaining “an art history degree.” It appears that you are considering the matter of a college education exclusively in terms of technical preparation for work. 

In my original answer, I wrote the following: “Hopefully your son has a long and full life ahead of him. A university degree in our world is not just a preparation for a specific job. It is a preparation for thinking, analysis, and expression, as well as an opportunity for an expanded understanding of the world in which we live.” Although I would never recommend that someone planning to work with children at risk in Thailand major in Art History, even studying that discipline as a major, as well as the other general subjects he would take, would hopefully result in a shaping of his mind and character which would help him to be more prepared to understand the world in which we live and respond to it.

Also, a nineteen year old in most cases is not ready to encounter the spiritual and sociological challenges of children at risk in Thailand. As I suggested, learning to share the Gospel in a college setting, working through one’s own spiritual issues, growing in the life of faith as one faces the intellectual realities of the academic community, all are part of just plain growing up as a committed Christian.

I agree that one must take into consideration the matter of cost and debt. I don’t know anything about the family’s resources, but this didn’t seem to be the major issue in the mind of the individual who wrote me. State colleges are less expensive than private ones. Scholarships are available. Students can work, as my wife and I did when we studied. Ultimately, the Christian has to know the will of God. If He leads this young man into the kind of work he is anticipating, and if the individual comes to the conclusion that God is calling him to get adequately prepared, we know that the Lord is able to provide. This dimension in itself is part of “growing up.”

It will be interesting to see what choices this young man and his parents take as he faces the call the Lord has placed on his life.

Jack

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