What Happens to Christian Young People At College?

This week our two oldest granddaughters are entering institutions of higher learning. Savannah studied one year in Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, but is taking her second year of at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. Arienna’s first year of higher education is at Joshua Wilderness Institute at Hume Lake in east-central California.

Our granddaughters are just two of a huge flow of Christian young people who this fall are pursuing higher education. Some, like Arienna, will study in a Christian setting, others, like Savannah, will live and study in a decidedly non-Christian situation.

Meanwhile, back home, thousands of parents wonder what will become of their children’s Christian faith. They have heard horror stories of young people entering university with a good, solid faith in Christ, and a reputation for being active in church, but who lost their faith and dropped out of church after graduation.

Fortunately this fear is not well founded in fact.

Sure, we can all tell anecdotes of young people we know who lost their faith in college, but the statistics show a much more positive picture.

Six years ago, the Pew Research Center surveyed evangelical young people in North America on the subject of Christian faith and higher education. They differentiated between high school graduates, those who had some college, and those who were college graduates. The four questions were:

  1. Is religion very important to you?
  2. Are you certain in your belief in God?
  3. Do you attend church at least once a week?
  4. Do you pray privately, outside of church services?

The answers showed that the more education the young people had, the stronger their faith was. The responses to the question on church attendance, for instance showed 54% of those with only a high school education attended church weekly, while 60% of those who had some college did so. A whopping 70% of college graduates, however, attended church at least once a week.

These findings surprise us, but they shouldn’t. We evangelical Christians tend to define ourselves and our faith by being different from our surrounding society. We remember the command,

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (GNT)

Sociologist Dr. Bradley Wright who reports these findings in his book “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You’ve Been Told” writes,

“Cultural conflict strengthens Evangelicals’ faith, and what better way to experience this conflict than college? Going to college causes Evangelicals to further engage society, thus highlighting and strengthening their faith.”

Grandson Ryan Graduated With Stronger Faith in God

Grandson Ryan Graduated With Stronger Faith in God

Our oldest grandson, Ryan, is a  good example. He graduated from Grant MacEwan University last year, having served as a highly respected Senior Resident Assistant. In his second year, he and a friend started a Bible study in the residence–the first regular student led Bible study in the history of the residence. In the beginning of his third year, students came asking, “When are you starting the Bible studies? I don’t want to miss any.”

Ryan and our other grandkids were well prepared for college, even in a secular setting. They all have a solid Christian education, some through a Christian school and others via home schooling. Plus, they had faithful daily prayer backing from parents and grandparents, and probably others.

Well prepared students, strongly supported in prayer, daily experiencing the strength of Jesus, tend to finish college with a powerful, more vital faith than when they started.