Campus Ministers Respond to Research on Today's College Students
What I Learned and Why It Matters
Point #1: Most teens cannot articulate their faith and how it intersects with the rest of their lives.
No wonder teenagers are leaving the faith at an alarming rate. If we fail to teach them how to do this, why on earth should they continue to follow Christ of their own volition? Over and over in the Old Testament Law, God commands the Israelites to raise their kids in the fear of the Lord. The heart of the book of Proverbs is this very point: to learn wisdom and help train children to integrate faith into every part of life.
We have to start teaching our students how to connect their faith into every aspect of life, not only because faith has to work in order to keep believing, but mainly because integration of faith and life is crucial to what Christianity actually is.
Point #2: The majority of American teens hold to “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”.
I whole-heartedly agree with this assessment. This is being both taught and modeled in our churches all over America, whether it’s on purpose or not. When I graduated from high school, nearly everyone in my circle of influence (which was nearly all professing-Christian) told me they just wanted me to be happy and/or go to college so that I could get a good job (a.k.a. make lots of money). This mind-set is found nowhere in Scripture. What we find there is the exact opposite. Christ calls us to follow Him and take up the cross daily, and according to Him, difficulty is inherent in the cross.
This matters because we as campus ministers have the power to help change this thinking. The students we minister to every day will very soon be the body of the Church. Changing the way they think will in turn allow us to impact the churches that they begin attending after they graduate.
Point #3: Teens reflect the world more than they rebel against it.
I was a bit surprised by this point, though it certainly makes sense. After hearing so many people say that teens are rebellious, you sort of just start accepting it without checking to see if it’s actually true or not.
We need to change our assumptions about who teens are and where they are coming from. If we believe they are rebellious as opposed to reflective, that will have a big impact on the way we interact with and minister to them.
What I will do differently
First, I need to realize that college freshmen are coming from a different place than I came from. Teen culture has changed quite a bit in 10 years. I also need to do my part in learning more about what they believe and how that impacts their worldview. Second, I need to meet them where they’re at. They can’t change until their wrong thinking is exposed. Finally, I need to embrace my calling as a campus minister and rise up to the challenge of being God’s mouthpiece. I want to be open and available for God to use me to draw them to true faith in Christ.