Friday, December 20, 2013

The Most Perplexing Collegiate Ministry Issue

There are many things that I don't understand in Collegiate Ministry....but, the most perplexing is how and why "committed Christian students" disappear from practicing their faith when they come to college.

All of us are familiar with the figure, "4 out of 5 high school seniors active in church have no spiritual connection in college". Others say the figure is "7 out of 10". Either way, it is not encouraging....what happens?

A mother recently shared that her "Christian high school daughter" now at the end of her first semester in College thinks mom is old fashioned because she won't let her go spend a week in another state with her boy friend...just the two of them in his new apartment. There's the guy who was a leader last year in his youth group and a worship leader...this fall in college, he is drunk a lot and not connected to a church or campus ministry.

What happens? Is it peer pressure is greater? Was their Christian commitment last year just responding to the peer pressure of a different group? Or, were they just "taken" to church by their parents?

A Sociologist who made a study of high school seniors and their transition to college has said, "Parents aren't getting what they want(faith-wise), but they are getting what they deserve". I accept that in some cases, but not in all.

Some have said it happens as a result of growing up with "Rules Religion" and when they get to school and break one of the "rules" they quit faith out of guilt.

Somehow, we have to get a better understanding of what happens between youth group star to no faith walk in college.

How do we re-connect with them after they have gone away (sophomore, junior, senior years)?

Later Addition: My friend Brian Combs recommends "Artificial Maturity" and "Generation IY" by Tim Elmore and "Hurt" by Chap Clark, if you want to pursue this topic more. We had Clark at the Collegiate Summit right after he wrote this book. He had just spent a year sub teaching in different high schools as part of his prep and research. Great suggestions by Brian!


  1. Arliss..Thanks for this post. It's an important topic. A few books that I think speak to this very well: Artificial Maturity and Generiation iY by Tim Elmore; Hurt by Chap Clark. I agree that we are getting what we deserve because we are experiencing the results of our current system that produces young-adults ill-prepared to engage their new world after high school...

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  3. Great post Arliss,
    I think there are a number of variables, many of which you mentioned. This always perplexed me but what I have come to conclude is the primary culprit is not a students contempt for the church or ill intent but a students lack of intentionality to make faith a priority in college. I really think most students with a churched background are oblivious to the slow fade of faith that is occurring in their life when they go to college. There are so many new experiences, opportunities, and relationships, that faith is often unintentional.

    Like a best high school friend that stayed home or went to a different college, time passes, new experiences are shared with others, and you drift a part.

    A student's faith is kind of like a high school best friend. They need help to see that the same Jesus that was found in their home and their home church can be found on campus ministry and in a college church but students must be intentional about seeking Jesus out on their own.

    That's a reason why strong and healthy Baptist Campus Ministries that work well with churches are so important. They contextualize christianity to a campus organization where students can find community on campus with friends who follow a familiar Jesus and they grow deeper in their walk becaue they are choosing him on their own daily for the first time. Students, parents, pastors, youth ministers, and friends can be instrumental in helping these students identify christian community, like the BCM, in their new college town and keep them accountable to making an effort when they are on their own.

    John Aaron Matthew

  4. Thanks, Arliss, I really appreciate you going after this. I have done quite a bit of work since even Hurt 2.0 came out, especially focused on "emerging adults." While there are several if not lots of people trying to unpack this issue, the factors are many, and complex. I'm glad you're in the game on the front lines. (And I think you're right on with the blessing of touch, so long as there are safeguards and accountability)... Best, Chap Clark (