A lot is made about Christians managing to survive college and for good reason, depending on which statistics you read, 60%-80% of Christian students in High School leave their faith in college. That’s a lot! What happens? What are the problems that Christian students face when they head onto the college campus? There are a lot of problems that I see Christian students face when they get to college. I’m going to focus on two of the more common problems that I see. Then I want to talk about how to thrive in college so you’re not just surviving.
The first problem college freshmen face is that everything is new. This can present itself in many different ways. One way I have seen this present itself is in choosing a new church. Many students have never experienced another church except their home church. When they get to college they don’t know how to choose a new church because no one has taught them how to choose a church. Not every church is the same even within the same denomination. Ask your parents or pastor how to choose a church?
Because everything is new, there is new found freedom. One way I see this is that many students choose to stay up late making almost impossible to get up on Sunday morning when most churches hold their services. Similarly, students will sometimes tell me they have too much homework, or they don’t have enough time to attend an InterVarsity meeting. Let’s be honest. We all have the same amount of time in a week. If you value your spiritual growth, you will find ways to nurture it. Learn to manage your time well. Take a class on time management. I am always teaching students how to manage their time.
The second is peer pressure. This can also be good. When students get to college the biggest thing they want and need is acceptance. A lot of students come to college convinced they don’t want to drink or party. The problem comes when they sit in their room every Friday night wondering what can I do? Other students invite them to party and they go because they don’t want to be left behind. I’ve seen the positive side to this too. I’ve seen students who came to school to party and got involved with InterVarsity because the people that invited them to “party” were believers. When they begin to feel accepted for who God has created them to be, without the alcohol, they aren’t tempted by that anymore. That is why it is so important to connect with the right group of students from the beginning. Every campus has a campus ministry that you can plug into. Get plugged in!
So how do you thrive in college? I would argue that the essence of thriving revolves around a community of people that encourage you to pursue Jesus. Students who engage in the community are growing in faith.
The second aspect of thriving involves actively sharing faith. Students who are actively sharing their faith are challenged to think critically about their faith. As they encounter more questions they are forced to reconsider what they believe. Students who share their faith study their Bible more, seek God in prayer more and study apologetics more. In essence, allowing others to challenge what you believe is a good recipe for growing in your relationship with God.
As campus staff, we are there to encourage students to actively participate in what God is doing in their life, the campus and the world! I love helping students answer tough questions.
Would your faith thrive in college?
What problems do you see? Are there other ways to thrive?