Higher Education in the Anabaptist Communities

Higher Education in the Anabaptist Communities March 5, 2023

Where do young Anabaptists go for a college education? In this article I’ll discuss the different options that we have. (To clarify, I’ll be talking about “Conservative” Anabaptists, those who have a separate lifestyle from mainstream culture.)

Anabaptists who don’t go to college

Some groups aren’t comfortable with higher education. For one thing, they may see it as an unnecessary expense. Since Anabaptist communities tend to be very integrated, and since there’s a strong work ethic, pretty much any Anabaptist can find a job somewhere. A small businessman at their church might be hiring, or maybe someone from a nearby church needs personal care. Among Anabaptists, most people probably do some kind of manual labor, like working as a mechanic, butcher, farmer, or in a warehouse. For those jobs, you don’t need a degree.

Another reason some groups don’t encourage college is that they want their young people to have good influences around them during their formative years. They would be concerned about sending an eighteen-year-old to a campus far away where they might be tempted to take part in the vices or lifestyles of those who don’t share the church’s values. Even Christian universities are viewed with concern, because universities as a whole tend to follow trends toward facilitating libertine lifestyles. The fear is that higher education itself may tend to corrupt traditional values.

Where do Anabaptists go to college?

However, there are plenty of Anabaptists who do pursue studies in higher education.

Mainstream Universities

Those who do go to college typically go to generally Christian or secular universities. (I graduated from the University of Maryland.) That’s because there aren’t a lot of institutions that have an Anabaptist affiliation. These students often have a network of fellow Anabaptist students or people from home who will provide them support during their college years. Even churches that value higher education want to make sure that their people don’t flounder when they’re outside of their communities, especially since they’ll need to sort through a barrage of incoming ideas and perspectives.

Mainline Anabaptist Universities

Another option for Anabaptists is schools that are associated with mainline Anabaptist groups. Typically, these schools are affiliated with mainline Mennonites, like Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College, or Conrad Grebel University College in Canada. However, I know people who have gone to college at Messiah University, which has a historically Brethren affiliation. Though the belief systems behind these institutions might not be entirely shared by the students’ home churches, these colleges are historically Anabaptist and may be more understanding of the particular beliefs of Conservative Anabaptists.

Conservative Anabaptist Schools

However, there are a few institutions that have a Conservative Anabaptist affiliation, and these schools draw a lot of Anabaptists. Most common would be seasonal Bible colleges like Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute, where my wife studied. One that is structured more like a two-year college program is Faith Builders Training Institute, although its main focus is to prepare students for teaching or ministry. Recently, a church that’s similar to the Anabaptists began Sattler College, a full-fledged four-year institution that draws mainly Anabaptist people. What draws Anabaptists to these schools is their focus on not only teaching knowledge, but also their focus in discipling students in their relationship with God.

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