For many graduating high school seniors, starting college is the biggest transition they will face thus far in their lives. College can be daunting—it is difficult to fathom living in an entirely new environment, making new friends, and keeping up with the college workload. However, one major concern students might not consider is how to “keep the faith” in college.
Between managing schoolwork, social lives, and personal obligations, lots of college students struggle to find time with God. The sad reality is that many 20-somethings stop going to church, no longer open their Bibles, and fall away from God.
Barna research reveals that more than half (59%) of young Christians “disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15” . This means that 3 out of 5 Christian college-aged students are no longer attending church.
But there is some good news: many other new college students experience a tremendous amount of growth and thrive spiritually. New experiences, lots of studying, interactions with professors, and opportunities to learn don’t have to drive college students away from faith. Here’s some helpful advice on how to stay Christian in college:
Get involved in the local church.
One of the most important things that a student can do to nurture his faith in college is to get plugged into the body of Christ by committing to a local church. In Scripture, it is evident that God interacts with His people through the proclamation of His Word. In order to hear God’s Word, it is crucial that students attend a local church to hear a pastor preach regularly and to be a part of the body of Christ.
While some students who attend a Christian university may believe that they don’t need church given that they hear the Word in class and chapel, church is a place where we can experience spiritual regeneration alongside fellow believers. True community happens when members of the body join together to worship corporately. It is a wonderful feeling to connect with other believers and to be part of a family. Plus, church can be a good way to get some homecooked food when you’re away at college.
Be in the Word every day.
Although it seems obvious, another important thing that a student can do is be in the Word daily. Reading the Bible should not be a passive activity—you must think critically about what you read. By reading God’s Word and meditating on it, you can apply it to your life and allow the Word to reshape your thoughts, actions, and behaviors.
Surround yourself with good people.
A good community of friends will act as a support system through encouragement and discipleship. It is important to find like-minded individuals who are committed to God and His Word so that you can keep each other accountable. Similar to a gym buddy, a church buddy will make it much easier to wake up on Sunday mornings to go to church.
Find a mentor.
Finding someone older than yourself to meet with regularly can be a game-changer. If you’re not sure how to do this, find someone with a life that models faith well and figure out a way to spend time with them. Meeting for coffee or grabbing lunch can be a great start to developing a mentor-mentee relationship. Don’t know where to find a mentor? Look for people in your church, Christian professors or school staff members, or even an older student and see if they are willing to spend time with you. You’ll find that learning from a mentor makes the task of getting through college–and life–a bit more bearable.
Immerse yourself in good literature.
In addition to reading the Bible, it is important to fill your head with godly literature. Many world-renowned preachers and teachers will attest to having a library of books that changed and transformed their lives. It is never too early to start building your own personal library!
A few recommended works are Augustine’s Confessions and J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Also C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, and Max Lucado’s Just Like Jesus are a few added helpful books.
Without a doubt, college is full of ups and downs: academic, emotional, and spiritual. However, by committing to these habits and trusting in God’s promises and His faithfulness, the next four years may prove to be truly life-changing in the development of your faith.