According to a recent report published by the Pew Research Center, 81% of adult Tennesseans consider themselves Christians. Evangelical Protestants make up the lion's share of believers, with 52% of all residents identifying as members of this denomination. Mainline Protestants account for a further 13%, while Historically Black Protestants rank third at 8%. More than half of all adult residents attend a religious service at least once a week, while an additional 24% go to church at least a few times per year. Tennessee is the third most religious U.S. state, ranking behind only Alabama and Mississippi.
Evangelical Protestants make up the lion's share of believers in Tennessee, with 52% of all residents identifying as members of this denomination. Pew Research Center
Given its rich religious landscape, it should come as no surprise that there are many Christian colleges in Tennessee. The 24 faith-based colleges and universities in the state offer a mix of liberal arts educations with a Christian foundation, denomination-specific programming, and seminaries for students planning to enter the ministry. Christian colleges in Tennessee offer many options to learners seeking a supportive community of Bible believers. The following guide highlights some of the reasons to pursue a Christian education in the state.
Tennessee Christian colleges offer an array of postsecondary education options for distance learners, making it easier for busy students to earn a degree. Flexibility plays a big role in why so many learners chose to enroll at online Christian colleges in Tennessee. Instead of traveling multiple times per week to attend classes at a brick-and-mortar institution, learners can access educational materials from the comfort of their homes. Many online Tennessee Christian colleges also offer asynchronous courses, where learners listen to lectures, complete assignments, and engage with their peers at their convenience. Affordability also factors into the popularity of these programs; attending Christian online colleges in Tennessee allows learners to avoid many costs, such as those associated with commuting and paying for on-campus accommodations or meal plans.
Students can also find online Christian colleges that offer distance learners robust support mechanisms. Services to look for include web-based support and spiritual counseling, digital forums for building communities, and live streams of chapel and worship services.
Despite the many benefits offered by online Christian colleges in Tennessee, some learners may still want to experience campus life as part of their college experience. Before committing to one of the many Christian colleges in Tennessee, prospective degree seekers should create a list of their “must-haves” to ensure they find the right school. The most important considerations typically relate to cost and a program's academic offerings. Regardless of any other benefits, students should ensure a school offers a curriculum that supports their future goals and provides the knowledge and skills needed to find employment after graduation. Campus size also merits consideration: although some learners find the idea of a large, bustling campus attractive, schools with smaller populations typically provide a more intimate setting for learning, socializing, and fellowship.
Students should ensure a school offers a curriculum that supports their future goals and provides the knowledge and skills needed to find employment after graduation.
Religious learners should also consider a school's values. Many Christian schools have stricter rules than secular institutions. For example, students may not be able to invite members of the opposite sex into their dorm rooms. Additionally, the penalties for using alcohol or drugs may be harsh and a school may mandate regular chapel attendance. Students should consider the type of college experience they want when reading about a school's rules. It's also important to consider the safety of the area surrounding campus. Lastly, even if a learner plans to study on campus, it is worth reviewing a school's online resources. These can prove useful if you ever need to study from home.
Seminary Schools vs. Bible Schools
Christians evaluating potential colleges may come across seminaries, Bible schools, and other Christian colleges offering liberal arts curricula. These types of institutions may seem interchangeable, but there are key differences between them; learners should be sure to understand these differences before picking a school.
Bible schools tend to cater to undergraduates while seminaries serve graduate students. Although a Bible school provides many biblically-based degrees -- such as Christian ethics, ministry, and youth leadership -- it typically also offers popular degrees in areas such as business, health sciences, and social work. Seminaries, conversely, focus solely on preparing graduates for roles in churches, mission organizations, faith-based nonprofits, and other Christian institutes. These schools provide master's and doctoral degree paths, with common topics including hermeneutics, biblical languages, and Christian leadership.
Accreditation for Christian Colleges
Before enrolling at a school, learners should ascertain an institution's accreditation status. Generally speaking, three types of accreditation may be listed on a college's website: institutional, programmatic, and/or specialized. Institutional accreditation falls into two categories: regional and national. Regional accreditation tends to be more prestigious, and students who attend a nationally accredited institution may struggle to receive financial aid, transfer to another school, receive licensure, and/or find a job upon graduation. A regionally accredited school goes through a multi-year accreditation process, ensuring that it provides an appropriately rigorous curriculum.
Specialized organizations include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
Programmatic accreditation extends to particular degree programs, such as teaching, accounting or social work, while specialized accreditation refers to recognition from special interest groups that provide legitimization based on whether schools follow specific tenets. In the case of Christian colleges in Tennessee, specialized organizations include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Learners looking for more details about accredited schools can visit the U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
According to a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council, Tennessee ranked 12th in the nation in 2018 in terms of economic outlook. While the state collects a hefty sales tax, the lack of income tax appeals to many individuals. Tennessee also boasts a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.4%, which is significantly less than the national average (4.1%). In terms of income potential, the state also rates favorably. The mean hourly wage for 2018 sits at $20.93, while the annual mean wage totals $43,550. Individuals with degrees from a Christian college in Tennessee who remain in-state stand to earn above average wages.
In terms of areas of opportunity, transportation, trade, utilities, educational services, healthcare, and social assistance programs provide a significant number of jobs in the state. Additionally, Tennessee's larger cities -- Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville -- offer ample opportunities for work in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Many graduates of Tennessee Christian online colleges find community and social service-related jobs. The following table highlights a few of these occupations as well as their accompanying wages.
|Occupation||Employment||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Wage|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||1,660||$18.93||$39,370|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||680||$16.48||$34,280|
|Mental Health Counselors||2,470||$16.29||$33,890|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||4,790||$19.46||$49,480|
|Healthcare Social Workers||3,040||$25.45||$52,930|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||2,250||$15.12||$31,450|
|Directors, Religious Activities and Education||90||$20.06||$41,720|
Although Tennessee Christian colleges tend to cost more than public schools, students can help offset their financial burden by applying for scholarships and grants. Prospective learners can review the faith- and state-based scholarships highlighted below before beginning their own search for funding opportunities.
Student Opportunity Scholarship Up to $3,000
Mary Northington Scholarship $1,500
Myrtle Creasman Scholarship Varies
Servant Leader Scholarship Full tuition
J.D. Pyeatt Scholarship Varies
Scholarships for Tennessee Residents
Jack Diller Education Award $2,500
James A. Hyter Music Scholarship Up to $4,250
NIADA Regional Scholarships $3,500
Scarlett Family Foundation Scholarships $2,500-$15,000/year
Ned McWherter Scholars Program Varies
Find a Church in Your Community
One of the first things many attendees of Christian colleges in Tennessee do once they reach campus is find a suitable church. Students can use Church Finder and USA Churches to browse faith-based communities according to denomination or distance from campus.
Christian students interested in connecting with fellow believers may find the following websites useful.
- The Christian Business Network The CBN is a global organization that provides meaningful connections, communication, collaboration, content management, group services, and professional services to members, while also fostering a Christian community.
- Christian Business Men's Connection: Based in Chattanooga, the CNMC has chapters throughout the country, including 18 in Tennessee. The group aims to equip Christian professional men with the business skills and faith-based knowledge needed to succeed
- Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce TCCC offers members the opportunity to engage with like-minded believers while also offering continuing-education opportunities, regular talks/presentations, and monthly workshops.
Find Christian Ministries
Christian learners can find fellowship with like-minded believers; many faith-based ministry programs exist on public campuses.
- Campus Crusade for Christ Known colloquially as Cru, this large campus ministry has groups at thousands of schools around the world, helping learners grow in their faith.
- Chi Alpha Chi Alpha serves college students across the nation by providing weekly Bible studies, opportunities for fellowship, and spiritual counseling to help students try and find answers to their questions about God.
- International Fellowship of Evangelical Students The IFES meets the needs of Evangelical Protestants by providing prayer meetings, Bible studies, mission and service learning opportunities, and community events.
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes With more than 11,000 groups operating on thousands of high school and college campuses, the FCA continues in its mission to help students build their faith while also improving their sports-related skills.
- Catholic Campus Ministry Association In addition to offering a national conference each year, the CCMA endeavors to address the spiritual needs of undergraduate and graduate students in fun and meaningful ways.
- Lutheran Student Movement USA The LSM-USA operates campus ministries in nine different regions of the U.S., providing learners with spiritual guidance and support.
- Reformed University Fellowship The RUF provides weekly Bible studies for men or women, a large coeducational Bible study group, several social events throughout the semester, and opportunities to share the gospel with others.
- UKirk With a focus on helping young adults on their journeys to finding Christ, UKirk hosts several campus ministries. The organization offers a number of service and mission trips, encouraging students to participate in "alternative spring breaks."
- Baptist Collegiate Ministry Life BCM-Life maintains a directory of collegiate ministries, helping students find an organization nearby. The group hosts regular campus events, helping students learn how to live out their faith.
Public Universities in Tennessee with Christian Ministries
- Vanderbilt University's RUF This popular campus organization offers weekly large groups, guys and girls luncheons, a freshman Bible study, and opportunities to serve the homeless.
- University of Tennessee at Knoxville's FCA As one of the leading colleges for sports, the FCA ministry at UT provides opportunities for casual and committed athletes to engage in fellowship and ground themselves in biblical teachings.
- Middle Tennessee State University MTSU is home to BCM, FCA, CCMA, and RUF groups, as well as nearly 40 other religious organizations.