Selling place, selling faith : what Christian university tour guides reveal about a theology of place.


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Christian college campuses are theologically-imbued places of higher learning. Drawing from their personal experiences and professional trainings, campus tour guides are uniquely positioned to introduce a theology of place to prospective students. From a qualitative paradigm and symbolic interactionist approach, this project investigated the lives, work, and meaning-making of ten tour guides through interviews, as well as official and personal campus tours to answer the following research question: How do tour guides on a Christian college campus experience, interpret, and convey a theology of place to prospective students? Study findings reveal that guides felt connected to their campus community and experienced God’s presence everywhere, privileged realities they– through symbols, objects, and interactions – strategically shared and subtly normalized for tour-goers. This study ultimately illuminates the challenges of mission-based practice, shedding new light on how students uniquely navigated these tensions, and challenging higher education practitioners to think theologically about the campus places they work to promote.