Keeping the Faith in College: Advice for Students
by Ed Arcton
This article is based on content from ‘How to Stay Christian in College’ by J. Budziszewski.
High school graduation … check. Freshman orientation … check.
It’s time for college—your biggest adventure yet. But have you thought about the spiritual challenges you might face?
Even when you’re smart enough to avoid risky situations, Christian students often have their faith tested during college in ways they haven’t considered.
In his candid book How to Stay Christian in College, author J. Budziszewski writes, “From the moment students set foot on the contemporary campus, their Christian convictions and discipline are assaulted.”
Understanding this hidden spiritual darkness can help students remain on course and even increase their faith exponentially over the next four years. Here’s how you can be prepared.
Get Social—In Person
Leaving home and living on your own means it’s up to you to decide how to manage your time and who you spend it with. It’s important to be intentional about making good friendships.
“There’s no such thing as a solitary Christian. If you go into the world alone, you’ll be swallowed,” Budziszewski writes.
Try these tips for finding Christian community in college:
- Seek out other believers from the beginning. Join a Christian student group right away, or even better, connect with a campus ministry before leaving home. Many organizations will offer fun activities the week before classes start.
“Most students intend to stay with their faith but they’re surprised at what happens to them,” explained John Decker, director of partnerships for Campus Ministry Link. “Suddenly, they’re not surrounded by Christians, and their roommate comes in and invites them to a party.
“They start bonding with these people just because of the culture shock of college,” Decker continued. “It’s human nature to have this high need for friends, and they bond with the wrong people.”
Try several different organizations if you need to, and don’t worry if it takes awhile to fit in, Budziszewski writes. Students may not be comfortable on their first or second visit but the more they participate, the quicker they’ll feel at home.
If students don’t click with everyone at first, that’s OK. It’s normal to like some personalities more than others.
- Take on a leadership role. It’s a great way to meet people and use your passion for Christ to help them grow.
- Attend a summer project. Choose a short-term mission trip or one that’ll keep you traveling around a couple months. Stay in the U.S. or go abroad. Serve God and experience new places with like-minded friends.
- Find a ‘real’ church. It’s important to attend church in addition to joining a campus organization. Ask older students in your group for suggestions, and make plans to go with a friend. Some churches may offer a shuttle from campus.
Knowledge & Politics
This milestone of turning 18 often comes with a sense of self-discovery or a desire to express your ideas and beliefs.
But look out.
“Colleges and universities are magnets for extreme beliefs, ideologies and cults,” writes Budziszewski.
Some students protest or support a cause without fully understanding the issue or politics involved.
About his own college experience, Budziszewski writes, “I had my own ideas about redeeming the world, and my politics became a kind of substitute religion.”
If Doubt Creeps In
In conversations with friends or perhaps in class, be prepared to hear people make blanket statements, such as: “Christianity is judgmental and intolerant,” “The Bible is just mythology,” or “Everyone must find his own truth.”
A professor himself, Budziszewski warns that professors might patronize Christianity or imply the Christian faith is historically inaccurate.
In response, ask your professor to explain his or her statement. Don’t be afraid to respond, but be respectful and, most of all, be confident in what you know to be true.
Keep up your daily spiritual routine. Start your day with God. Spend time in prayer and study God’s Word between classes or whenever you can.
“College may be a turning point in your walk with God—a time when your relationship with Christ either deepens or weakens,” explains Budziszewski.
A person can be committed to a personal relationship with Christ but they also shouldn’t go through college alone.
“Fellowship is necessary to your relationship with Christ. It’s also the best place to form rewarding friendships and find a suitable person to marry,” he writes.
“Spending time with Christian friends makes the greatest difference.”
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By J. Budziszewski
J. Budziszewski is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, speaker and has authored over a dozen books. As a Christian who lost his faith in college—then eventually rediscovered God—he knows firsthand how students lose their way.
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