08CCBSRecently, I had the privilege of listening to some Carolina College of Biblical Studies alumni reflect on what motivated them to persist in their journey to earn a Bible degree, and it all came down to relationships. They all commonly agreed that relationships factored heavily in their overall persistence to graduate. Critical to every attitude, experience and persistence factor was a relational link. Relationships incrementally endeared and bonded graduates to the administration, faculty and staff so that a drive to finish grew stronger than the initial and ongoing challenges.

Relationships are emphasized distinctly, tying all experiences together. Daniel (all names are pseudonyms) is grateful for that “one-on-one personal engagement (which) made a big difference during my matriculation — that personal touch making us feel like we’re part of family.”

Zion agreed saying, “It’s the relationship, I mean, from top to bottom. It’s the relationships you live for that you had in college.”

Nathan was quite passionate as he expressed the relational aspects: “The faculty was so proactively involved in relationships professionally that it kept me academically sharp. The interaction I had with the professors was great, and it continued ... The relationships would drive me.”

The connections among our graduates’ experiences created a sense of belonging, which provided another motivational experience, overcoming various fears and apprehensions. They felt an immediate sense of belonging within a welcoming environment. This grew into a campus connectedness that served as a protective factor against dropping out of school.

Zion’s initial impression drove the stakes deep: “My experience here at the college was amazing because you enter as such a skeptic … So when I got here, what made this college so amazing (is) … they make you feel so welcome.”

Isaiah was also very personal in his convictions, stating, “Coming into school, after being (out of college) so many years was so difficult. But it was a great environment. When you come in, the receptionist would always greet you and call you by name.”

Joseph affirmed that “I enjoyed being around the people here. It’s a good atmosphere to be at, to learn and to interact with people.”

All the fears associated with the prospect of re-entering college were put to rest with the serendipitous experience opposite of what the applicants expected.

As graduates noted, cultural apprehensions were met with a sense of belonging through unconditional acceptance of all ethnicities. Initial re-entry fears were eliminated when the students witnessed a loving, caring and welcoming spirit from administrators, faculty and staff. Being well-received opened the door for spiritual formation resulting in a wholesome satisfaction.

An appreciation for the relational aspects of college life is not surprising considering the New Testament “one another” commands appear over 70 times. Jesus initiated this relational ministry in John 13:34-35. A mandate to love one another is the mark of Christ-followers to the entire world.

Thankfully, Jesus serves as the model of how to biblically love. Relational love is a powerful tool in the hands of our Lord. We have certainly experienced it at CCBS as evidenced by our students. Relational love provides a sense of belonging, encouragement and motivation, all of which transcends our college experience.

A sense of belonging: We are family.

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