New faculty member desires to touch lives through design

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New faculty member desires to touch lives through design

Chris Barnhart is pursuing a seminary degree while teaching graphic design at BJU. Photo: Amanda Ross

When graphic designer Chris Barnhart came to Greenville to work on a seminary degree, he had no idea he would join the BJU art faculty full-time just a year and a half later.

Barnhart started in the graphic design industry 17 years ago, receiving both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in graphic design from Pensacola Christian College. He spent 11 years working professionally as a graphic designer, and the last five years he owned his own business as a freelance designer.

Barnhart said although he didn’t grow up in a Christian home, he attended a Christian high school. Pensacola was the only Christian college that visited his school, so until he went to Pensacola, Barnhart had never even heard of BJU.

Barnhart’s journey to Greenville and BJU began in 2008 when he quit working for a graphic design company in northern Indiana. Because the economy wasn’t doing well, Barnhart said the company started to lay off many of their employees. He decided it was time to transition to freelance graphic design.

During this time of change, Barnhart felt the Lord redirecting his steps toward a full-time Christian ministry position. He said the professional world was always unfulfilling for him, and he became frustrated with working in the secular world.

“I was living for myself and just trying to get fulfillment out of things that I knew were really not eternal in nature,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart and his family began devoting most of their time to serving their church in Indiana, but he continued to freelance about 25 hours each week, in order to provide for his family.

At first, Barnhart designed communication materials for the church as he had since he joined the church and also helped with the youth group. But later, his pastor offered him an assistant pastoral position. Through this, Barnhart had the opportunity to speak, and he found he enjoyed the teaching role.

In addition to giving Barnhart ample opportunity to serve in ministry, his church in Indiana was closely associated with BJU. And as a result, Barnhart chose the University when he felt God calling him to work on a seminary degree.

But before he even moved to Greenville, Barnhart contacted Jay Bopp, chair of the Division of Art and Design, to see if a position for teaching graphic design would be open at BJU. However, when he and his family moved to Greenville in 2012, no position at the University was currently open.

Then, last summer, Bopp contacted Barnhart and told him that a position was open if he was still interested. Bopp said he chose Barnhart because his doctrine and philosophy of art and design, design education and teaching aligned with those of the art department and the University. “We also realized that Mr. Barnhart’s personality and personal design aesthetic would fit well on our team here,” Bopp said.

Barnhart immediately accepted and began teaching several graphic design classes in the Fall 2013 semester. And although Barnhart isn’t taking any seminary classes this semester, he said he is still continuing to work on his seminary degree.

Because of his years working in the design industry, Barnhart said he has a good degree of confidence in the material he’s teaching. “It’s not just theoretical or hypothetical. It’s very practical,” he said. And within his 11 years as a professional graphic designer, Barnhart has had a broad range of experience, working for all types of organizations, from small startup companies to large businesses.

Barnhart said the main reason he’s teaching at BJU is that it’s an opportunity to minister to the students. He wants to be able to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

“I enjoy teaching graphic design and helping students discover and explore their own design abilities,” Barnhart said. “But I really enjoy the opportunities here at BJU, to invest my life in what’s eternal — the lives of our students.”