Heading to university? Serious about your Christian faith?
If you just look at the stats there might be some well founded reason for your parents and youth pastor to fear for your faith. It seems that most of the people who walk out of youth group to head to university don’t ever make it back to a church pew.
Why? There are lots of great thoughts on this. Take a look at Dave Sawler’s blog for some of the ideas. Bottom line – your faith can survive and thrive through university.
I started to think about this when I was reflecting on the past few years in my life. After graduating from a Bible College and pastoring for a while I felt it was time to continue on with what I was supposed to do with my life. That meant heading to university to study science. I’m now into year nine of the journey having walked through undergraduate science into medical school on to a medical residency. My faith is intact although it’s grown and shifted over the years.
If you’re starting university or in the middle of the task here’s some thoughts I want to share that I put together after a few years on the road. I hope they help.
1. Find a church or Christian fellowship right away, first week!
Make it a priority to find people your age who believe and go to church or a Christian fellowship together right from the start. If you start connecting right away there’s people to help you when you struggle. If you wait until you’re “all settled in” your connections are already being made and it becomes harder and harder to change direction. First priority – find church!
2. Make sure your faith is not about your friends
You may have started going to your youth group because of that girl. The guy in the worship band may have kept you coming. You may really like hanging out with your friends at youth group. If they all left would you still come? Do you believe when no one is around? Most of the time the youth group disperses to different places – work, college, university, family – and it’s just you and a whole new world.
3. Make sure your faith is not just about your experiences
That really amazing time at youth convention is important. I’m not here to downplay it. But, when you’re in philosophy class you need to know Jesus is with you right there and then. A long time ago seems like a really, really long time ago when you’re faced with doubts. If you talked to Jesus this morning, different story.
4. Take some time to figure out what you believe and why you believe it
I don’t mean memorize a statement of faith or become a professional apologist. I’m talking about basics – a response when the questions come. Why do you go the church anyway? Why am I “saved”? Who do I believe Jesus is? Talk to someone you trust, maybe your youth pastor or a mentor in the church, before you go.
5. Learn how to tell the difference between facts and your professor’s point of view
No, they are not the same. In every class you’re going to get great teaching with a certain amount of point of view thrown in. There’s not always a warning when the point of view is coming. Some classes are heavier on point of view than others. Learn to decipher. Pray for the ability to decipher because it’s a spiritual gift. Remember, you have a point of view on issues and it’s valid too even if it’s not popular. There are so many other people who are learned, some in your university, who also have the same point of view.
6. Christian worldview and belief are not anti-intellectual
Don’t believe the lie. It’s just not true and there are lots of great examples. Ask those you trust for examples, seek them out yourself, read their stuff. Here’s a starting point.
7. Give yourself permission to question, think, ask about your faith without guilt
It’s ok to ask questions about your faith. It’s ok to grow and change in your faith so that you’re different than the youth group version of yourself. That’s normal and good. There is no guilt if the question “Really?” or “Why?” crosses your mind when you read the Bible or hear a sermon. If you stay on your foundations and are solidly connected to other Christians, you’ll be just fine.
8. Seek out Christian mentors in your field of study
There are Bible believing doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists, professors, musicians, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, computer scientists and the list goes on and on. Try to find them – and talk to them. Most will have lots to share and would love to share it with you.
9. Don’t reject where you came from
You need roots. Stay in touch and honour the people who helped you get to where you are today.
10. You can have fun without getting drunk or high and yes, there are other virgins in university
Just don’t believe the lie. There’s a better time out there then drinking your weekend away.
11. Don’t sell yourself out for popularity
The guilt will last and the popularity won’t. Stick to who you are and you can’t go wrong.
12. Don’t stop praying!
13. Don’t stop reading your Bible!
University education is not anti-Christian. You might meet some professors who are but you can overcome that. University is not meant to sell you a point of view but it’s supposed to grow you into a critical thinker, a learner, a contributor to society We need more Christians who understand the different points of view in the world and passionately, effectively, logically live out and present the case for Jesus. You can do this! You don’t have to lose your faith to get your education.