Perry White

The Bethel College mission statement, adopted in 1994, states the four core values of this institution: Bethel’s programs are informed by four central values—an ethic of discipleship, an ethic of scholarship, an ethic of service and an ethic of integrity.

Taken individually, none of these is unique to Bethel College. Further (although I must admit I haven’t done an exhaustive review of the more than 600 Council of Independent Colleges membership’s mission statements), I suspect you would find each of these stated values contained in the institutional mission statements of any of a number of small, private, church-affiliated liberal arts colleges around the country.

Our values, by themselves, are not distinctive. However, I would assert that the way our core values inform the way we pursue our core business is not only unique and distinctive, but an essential component to the contribution Bethel College and our graduates make to our community and society at large.

As I have observed the workings of Bethel College over the course of just under four years now, I am continually struck by the way our core values seem to intersect at service and the way our faculty, staff and students weave opportunities to serve others into the fabric of the Bethel experience.

From my perspective, service to others is so thoroughly infused within our general practices, operation and curriculum that I’m not sure we, who are closest to it, can always clearly distinguish and articulate the wide variety of ways our people serve others within our regular, sometimes daily, activities. Indeed, I believe we have become so accustomed to serving others on a regular basis that such activities simply seem to be the natural manifestation of our personal growth as disciples of Christ and a reflection of our scholarship and integrity as we attempt to improve the human condition within our communities, large and small.

When contemplating the true uniqueness of the Bethel College experience, if serving others really is the manifestation of our four core institutional values, I wonder: How should this impact the way we pursue our core business in the future? How can we become even more intentional in our efforts to infuse service to others as a recognizable and key element of the Bethel persona? What opportunities exist for us to be a destination for students looking to impact the world by investing themselves in service to others?

In the pages of this edition of Context, you will read about just a few clear examples of how Bethel people are providing service to others. I am so very proud of these stories and of our people.

However, I would argue that this is just a minute sampling of the ways our people serve others and the commitment they have displayed to serving others for generations. Yes, service is a well-worn value in college mission statements from around the country. However, at Bethel, it’s more than just a value—it’s a way of life.

Perry White