Back to NewsAugust 4, 2011
Bible College News:
ABC's Inside-Out Approach
to Character Training
I saw John coming toward me and tensed up. I knew what he would ask me: “Has the Lord taught you anything today?” I was in college, and John was a good friend. Too good. He was the best kind of friend who wouldn’t let me slide and kept on me to keep my spiritual life strong. But on those days I didn’t spend time with the Lord and in His Word, I was embarrassed because I couldn’t give a good answer to his question. But John’s persistence helped me develop spiritual discipline and is one reason I am convinced we need to help build character in each other. Here at Appalachian Bible College we have organized our Student Services division to help our students develop Biblical character, to learn how to Live Godly.
We do not have a demerit system at our school; instead, we seek to focus on the biblical truth that actions flow from what’s in our heart. Years ago when Dr. Anderson was the Dean of Students, he redesigned our student handbook so that every rule we had fell under one of nine character traits; he named it The "Servant's Staff" referring to something on which you could lean, like a shepherd’s staff. Still today, our rules remind the students to develop 1) humility, 2) virtue, 3) deference, 4) discernment, 5) courtesy, 6) orderliness, 7) stewardship, 8)hospitality, and 9) responsibility. Our handbook is divided into these nine traits and every policy is listed under one of those sections.
If a young lady does not keep her room clean she is told that this is a matter of orderliness. The Servant’s Staff defines orderliness as “preparing myself and my surroundings so that I will achieve the greatest efficiency.” A person of high character will demonstrate order in her life as it says in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” This student will receive a written infraction for her untidy room and, if it is a persistent problem, the Dean of Women will notice the accumulated infractions and have a talk with the student about this area of her life.
If a young man wears clothing to class that is not as professional as our standards require he is told this is a matter of deference. Deference is explained as “limiting my freedom in order not to offend the tastes of those God has called me to serve.” We explain that God may call him to minister in a more professional setting where this dress is expected and that to wear more casual clothing in that setting may close doors of ministry instead of opening them. The Dean of Men is always available to further explain a rule or give counsel to young men on these issues.
This system of identifying outward actions as symptoms of inward need for development of character has brought wonderful results. It allows us to fine tune our discipleship of students to address areas of greatest need, first with a soft reminder such as a written infraction, and later, as necessary, with a personal caring talk with a dean. In fact, these talks have been given the title “carefrontation.” To confront an issue in a caring way reflects how God deals with us. Often these talks will uncover additional areas of a student’s life that would benefit from the wisdom the deans are able to provide.
In addition, students will help each other. Each year, through our Resident Assistant’s program as well as Check-mate programs, upperclassmen help the younger students adjust to the policies on campus and challenge them to mature spiritually as evidenced through their actions. Many of the students are living away from home for the first time in their lives and the initial sense of freedom needs to be tempered with reminders that the way they live affects others—like their roommate! They find that living with another person they did not grow up with introduces them to different cultures, standards, habits, perspectives, and sometimes, smells! Their little world has suddenly expanded and some will adjust well while others struggle with these changes.
It takes character to live lovingly among others in a community setting. At Appalachian Bible College we try to highlight that the issue is character. The issue is the heart. Outward conformity has its place, but if we don’t develop character it is only a veneer that will crumble at the worst time.
Living godly is not easy, but it is important. Sometimes students do not initially respond well to rules, but patience and love go a long way. It is our greatest joy to see the change that takes place during the years a student is with us here at ABC. Many give testimony at graduation of this transformation. Please pray for Appalachian Bible College; that God will work in our lives, students and staff alike, changing us to be more like Him.