Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1949

Small Colleges


We view with satisfaction the move among members of the church toward establishment of a number of small schools and colleges. This is certainly a move in the right direction. In our judgment far more can be accomplished in the right training of young men and women, and far less danger to the church inheres, in the operation of a dozen schools and colleges of 300 or 400 students each than in the operation of two or three schools of a thousand or two thousand students.

Big schools, like big churches, tend to become less efficient and less true to the ideals of the founder as they grow larger and older. While there are distinct advantages to a big church, there are also some decided disadvantages. In a study of seven of the largest Protestant denominations covering a one hundred year period (1826-1926) and embracing over 9,000 separate congregations, it was found that the most effective congregations so far as gaining new converts was concerned were those averaging about 300 members. The percentage of new converts steadily declined as the church increased in size. Congregations averaging 300 members had an annual reception of new converts at the rate of 5.1%; when the membership climbed to 400 people, this rate dropped to 4.5%; and at a membership of 800 people, the average increase in new memberships was only 3.6%.

That, of course, has to do with churches. But it simply indicates that bigness tends to paralyze the personal zeal and fervor and enthusiasm of the individuals concerned. We believe the same is true of the schools. It is the personal association between pupil and teacher, the warm close friendships of student days, the sense of "belonging" to a close-knit family that makes college life both effective in molding character and fruitful in developing attitudes. In a student body of a few hundred this is possible; in a student body numbering into the thousands everything becomes impersonal and mechanical.

That we are not alone in this opinion is evident from numerous statements from men in a position to know whereof they speak. For example, James F. Byrnes, former Secretary of State, had this to say to graduates of a small college in Greenville, South Carolina:

Byrnes' statement

"You are extremely fortunate in having the opportunity to attend a small college. Today there is a mistaken worship of bigness. We like to boast of the bigness of a skyscraper, a cotton mill, a farm, and at this time of the year we find educational institutions boasting of the bigness of a graduating class. Whatever the advantage bigness may have in other fields, I think it is a distinct disadvantage in the field of education.

"Some of our universities have increased the student body to such an extent that the students have entirely lost the intimate association with talented teachers which has been a most precious privilege of university life. Many universities have become educational factories. Young men and women are placed upon the educational assembly line. As they pass a professor he tries to hammer something into their heads. They seldom get a chance to ask him a question. If the students are to miss all personal association with teachers, they might just as well read lectures printed in a correspondence course.

"Last year I attended commencement at a university where there were more than 7,000 graduates. It was mass production of Bachelors of various kinds. It is a great university, but I doubt that human beings can be standardized like automobiles."

One Danger Of Bigness

So far as schools operated by members of the body of Christ are concerned, we judge there is far less threat to the church in a number of small schools than in two or three very large ones. When the digression came in the last century, it was spear-headed by students of Bethany college—a small school, but one that had tremendous prestige and influence. Had there been fifteen or twenty colleges at that time, it is quite conceivable that Bethany's prestige would not have been so great as to allow it to swing a considerable segment of the brotherhood into apostasy. The other schools would have exercised a restraining and moderating influence. And as the digressive schools have grown in size, they have tended to become more and more liberal, even going far beyond even the wildest suggestions of the most rabid of Bethany's liberals.

We are grateful for the existence of schools like Florida Christian College, a small college, but one that will not only not endanger the church, but will be of real help to hundreds of boys and girls so long as her present policies are carried out. We rejoice in the progress being made toward establishment of a similar small college at Bartlesville, Oklahoma. We would like to see other brethren in other sections of the nation undertake similar movements.—F. Y. T.