God created people in his image to love him and each other. As Martin Luther said, work is a way to love our neighbor according to God’s providential plan. A Kuyperian view on our historic Christian faith would claim that human flourishing is intimately connected with faith in and action under the Lordship of Christ. It would also claim that but for the restraining power of Common Grace and the redeeming power of Special Grace in Christ, no human would or could flourish.
As educators, then, it is our business to help students discover, develop, and use their gifts by co-creating work experiences that matter so that they — uniquely gifted people — contribute to the well-being of others to the glory of God.
There is a word for this: shalom. Our goal, in short, is to help students experiences wholeness.
Not surprisingly, recent studies have shown that there is a connection between flourishing and engagement in a career, and engagement in a career and what happens in college. In fact, according to a recent Gallup/Purdue study, we are 4.6x more likely to thrive in well-being if we are engaged at work. The right college experiences and relationships have a lot to do with this.
For example, the likelihood of people being engaged at work is:
- 2.6x higher if their college prepared them for life after college
- 2.4x higher if their college was passionate about the long-term success of its students
- 2.0x higher if their college had at least one professor who got them excited about learning
- 2.0x higher if they had an internship or job that gave them the opportunity to apply what they were learning outside of the classroom
- 1.9x higher if their professors cared about them as people
- 1.8x higher if students worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete
- 1.4x higher if students were extremely involved in extra-curricular activities and organizations while in college.
Thus our vision is that all people will flourish.
We can make experiencing long-term well-being more likely if we increase the likelihood students will be engaged in a career according to God’s calling on their lives. We can make that like likely by engaging students in college in experiences that matter.
God created us to work and prepared for us in advance good work to do. He has wired us with talents and provided us with opportunities. According to Parker Palmer, we must let our lives speak. We must learn to listen through action learning. As James Sullivan writes, the will of the designer is seen in the design. Coaches and mentors, working on projects with students, can help students see that design.
What does that have to do with faithful leadership?
- Leadership is much more than a position; we are all leaders when we influence others according to our unique gifts
- The foundation of leadership is knowing oneself and knowing who we follow
- The foundation of faithful leadership is knowing oneself in relation to God and, thus, following the example of Christ
- We can better know ourselves and God through action learning with coaches and mentors
Max DePree notes that leadership can’t be learned from textbooks. Thus we don’t take a content-oriented approach to teach leadership in the classroom. Rather, we strive to help students discover their gifts and launch them by co-creating work experiences that matter.
Our “Why?” is to help students discern their calling. We help students:
- Discover, develop, and use their gifts to the glory of God
- Prepare them for internships and jobs by helping them practice their faith and hone their skills
- Transition out of college
Because we know that students who are meaningfully engaged in college are more likely as alums to be meaningfully engaged in a career and have a greater sense of fulfillment and well-being, our programs give students the opportunity to experience their faithful leadership potential by applying in the real world what they learn in the classroom.
Our “What?” is consulting and entrepreneurship programs:
- CFL Consulting – We recruit students to CFL’s Consulting Team. We employ and assign selected students to work on project teams with coaches and mentors and subject matter experts on complex problems with and for real organizations. See what clients say.
- CFL Incubator – We recruit students who start and grow things. We provide them with coaching and mentoring and networks and financial support to develop of their ideas into businesses. See some of their start-ups.
- Coursework to prepare for CFL Consulting and CFL Incubator experiences —
- Knowing oneself in relation to God (cf. LDRS 201: Introduction to [Servant] Leadership)
- Influencing others where the means justify the ends (cf. LDRS 291: The Influential Leader)
- Being trustworthy in character and competence (cf. LDRS 391: Becoming A Trusted Adviser) — required prerequisite for CFL Consulting
- Being innovative (cf. LDRS 231: Leading the Start-Up Process) — required prerequisite for the CFL Incubator
- Calling. All work matters to God and is fundamentally spiritual in nature. Work is not about us. It’s about God and our neighbor. As educators, our Why? is that we are called to help students discover, develop, and use their gifts by co-creating work experiences that matter so that they — uniquely gifted people — contribute to the well-being of others as part of God’s grand movement in history.
- Career-oriented. What leads to long-term well-being is engagement in a career; and understanding one’s gifts and calling leads to engagement in a career. God wired us with gifts. Education should give us opportunities to grow and use them for the benefit of others.
- Centered. Not athletics, not employers, not faculty, not scholarship; the focus of education is students’ development toward long-term well-being and flourishing.
- Coaching. From Scripture and even Greek mythology we know that mentors are important, inspirational, and informative. We can better understand our gifts and calling if we engage with people who have accumulated both knowledge and wisdom.
- Co-curricular. Learning experiences outside of the classroom, in church or school, are as important as learning experiences within it. As John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
- Collaborative. Problems aren’t understood and solved, movements don’t happen, the world doesn’t change, and people aren’t served by one person working alone. God created us to live and work in community.
- Community-based. Learning experiences outside of the classroom are greatly enhanced if they are consequential and relevant, focused on meeting needs and understanding organizational and societal problems in the context in which they exist.
- Complementary. Action learning with coaching and mentoring focused on helping students apply their learning complements liberal arts education because it makes it more valuable and its students more effective in the marketplace; likewise, a liberal arts education is excellent preparation for action learning.
- Critical Thinking. The world is a complex place; seeking to understand not only problems but the contest of problems from the perspectives of others is vitally important before trying to solve them. Such contextual and just-in-time learning enhances intellectual and emotional empathy as well as decisions that are implementable.
- Cross-generational. All leaders are followers. Education must engage both the “sage on the stage” and the “million points of light” in the community.
Outputs (Aspirational Behaviors): What is produced by the experiences created by our programs (adapted from Robert Quinn’s Building the Bridge As You Walk Across It)
- Adaptive Confidence – “adaptable and flexible while being confident and secure,” willing to enter uncertain situations with confidence because of a higher purpose Note: confidence is based on self-esteem, which comes from self-management, achievement, and growth
- Appreciative Inquiry – “optimistic and constructive while also being realistic and questioning,” seeing the good and the possible in others and leading with questions
- Authentic Engagement – “principled and ethical while involved and engaged,” being in the world — devoted — but with a sense of calling and purpose
- Detached Interdependence – combining independence and strength with humility and openness,” becoming both effective team members and change agents
- Grounded Vision – “grounded and factual while also hopeful and visionary,” having a kingdom vision grounded in pragmatism
- Reflective Action – being “deeply engaged in the world” and learning from it
- Tough Love – holding themselves and others accountable while also showing empathetic support
To God be the glory!
Co-creating work experiences. That matter.41 Graves Place, VanZoeren Hall 182