Everywhere I look I seem to see Christian studies and organizations showing how the youth of our churches are falling out of their faith in God when they go to college. I forget the stats off the top of my head, but it's something like 8 or 9 out of every 10 Christians are walking away from the church while at college. At least that's what I seem to hear.
Well, I know I'm getting older, but I remember doing something similar when I went to college 20 years ago. It makes me wonder, have the times really changed?
First, here's a little history on me. I was raised in the Catholic Church. I was deeply embedded in it. I went to Catholic grade school. I was an altar boy for Sunday church services. My mother was in charge of the church's food pantry and my brother and I helped her to serve the needy. At the point when I began developing a business, selling newspapers, it was even at the church. I sold papers outside the front door during morning services.
I moved into the public school system for 8th grade and high school. At that time I joined the youth group at my best friends Methodist church. I didn't do much extracuricular Catholic activities at that point, but I do remember teaching at one weekend Catholic youth event.
I was truly raised in the church, but I even took a separation from church when I went off to college. It wasn't intentional, it just happened. I moved onto a college campus, out of my friends and family's influence, and into a totally new place where I had no comfort zones. There was no church home or group that I was familiar with. I started from scratch like all young adults do.
I tried hanging out with my roommate. We had absolutely nothing in common so it didn't work very well. Within the first week I did find a Bible study for a catholic influenced campus organization. I didn't like it but it did help me stay on track because it helped me meet some important friends. Those friends turned out to be my college gang. Part of that college gang was embedded in a Methodist organization on campus. Long story short, I was a part of a Christian group during college. Not heavily, but I was somewhat in touch. Still, I didn't really go to church.
That changed when I met my wife. During summer break, after my sophomore year, I met the girl of my dreams. She was different from me in a lot of ways. Firstly she had a big heart for God. I learned a lot from her, and I still do today.
After that summer I changed colleges and attended a Christian university in probably one of the most religious towns in the Bible belt. I got saved several times that year at Christian events including a special performance from The Power Team. My new Christian college helped grow my faith because I had to study the Bible! (Old and New Testament classes were mandatory.) I learned a lot. I still remember discovering some new revelation one day and taking my Bible to my parents to ask "Did you know the Bible said this?"
I can see how kids fall away from the church today. Even I fell away for a time. A relationship with God just wasn't my priority. In college, it probably isn't for most kids. Why? Because college is a place we're supposed to go get enlightened. We're supposed to grow and learn something new. Unfortunately, most colleges are liberal and don't agree with the Bible. Instead, they teach against and ridicule God. No wonder kids are turning away from their faith. What kind of enlightenment would we expect under these circumstances?
This is the crux of the problem. If today's youth are not rooted firmly in a relationship with God, The Word of God or in a Church, how can they stay in the faith at an average, liberal college institution?
What You Can Do
Now, speaking to the parents, there are some things you can do to help your kids. I recently found a study hosted by the National Home Education Research Institute, or NHERI. The purpose of the survey was "to understand why Millenials who grew up in their church were encouraged or discouraged to practice the faith of their parents." All of the students in the survey had mothers that regularly attended church. About half of them were homeschoolers, 63% were in youth groups and 83% went to Sunday school classes when they were young.
After reviewing this research, I believe it shows there are 5 things parents can do to help establish and keep their kids strong in the faith.
First, your kids must have a strong relationship with their father and a strong relationship with their mother. Simple enough, right? I know it takes work, but that’s something we can do. There are 3 other things that will also help. Your kids should attend church from an early age, continue going to church when they're older and be homeschooled! These 5 things will help keep your child rooted in the faith they were raised in.
I already hear you complaining about the homeschool part. I understand. That's a big commitment. To help cool your nerves remember that the NHERI survey shows the biggest influence in your kids' lives is the relationship with Mom and Dad. Going to church is also important, though slightly less than those relationships.
However the survey shows that kids who were homeschooled receive a religious benefit from it. Believe it or not, there was no benefit for kids in a private school or even a Christian school! That's right, pick your jaw back up. Private schools and Christian schools actually hurt the chances of your youth staying in a relationship with God. Public school is even worse.
But your kids “are in public schools and there is no way you can even dream of homeschooling them”. If that’s the case, there are other things I would suggest to help prepare them for the future. After all, schooling was only one of the five things that helped or hurt their chances of staying in the faith. Remember, a relationship with Mom and Dad and regular church attendance are most important.
Don't have time for homeschool? Don’t have time for a church? Perhaps you can find a way to accomplish church and relationship at the same time. Maybe you can do a home Bible study. That simply requires taking time with the whole family and studying the Bible together. Make it quality time. Get to know your kids better, let them get to know you better. Then both of your can get to know God better. This could help dramatically. Maybe you can think of something better to accomplish the same thing.
My wife has an excellent suggestion on how you can actively help your child when they start looking for a college. When you go shop around, take a look at the churches also! Scout them out with your child. You could introduce them to the local pastor or young adult departments. You could also investigate the on-campus Christian groups that are available. Don't just throw them to the wolves, seek out places they would enjoy plugging into. Try to help them stay in that Godly relationship when they're no longer under your wing.
Church Is Very Important
I still have a few years till I have to worry about checking my child into college. You may have a while to wait too. If so, I think church time is most important to worry about, after the relationship with Mom and Dad. The challenge is finding a church that you like and (here's the important part) that encourages your family to stay strong together. Sound simple? It's not. I work for a church. I know first hand that today's environment (church and secular) thinks parents don't know what they're doing. Some institutions think you should be separated so your kids can learn. I understand kids need time alone, but I don't agree that parents should be locked away so their kids can grow without them. It doesn't make sense to lock your kids up with other kids who have similar problems and also need the same kind of help. Instead, bring your whole family together. In fact, bring the family together with other families.
My wife and I have led a couple church youth groups. We're no experts, but I do have proof to show that our youth group changed people's lives. Our group helped to bring entire families back to God. We didn't do anything special, we just focused on loving people and including the families. That's it and this simple concept worked wonderfully.
Why? Because, people in today's world are too busy for the simple things in life. We're too busy going here and there, or doing this and that, to spend a little time to make sure our loved ones are okay. We don't take the time to ask somebody how they're doing and truly care how they're doing.
Ha, I recently had an experience with that! I was picking up some lunch at my local McDonalds. The polite server asked today's selling phrase, "Hi, how are you?" I politely said "I'm good" and without thinking asked them "How are you?" Big mistake. They took my question seriously. I should have taken my question seriously. It makes me wonder if most people don't listen to the servers and just say "I'd like a Big Mac, Mc BLT, A Quarter-Pounder with some cheese. Filet-O-Fish, A Hamburger, A Cheeseburger, A Happy Meal." Do you remember that song? I guess I'm showing my age because I used to have that record! My wife didn't know what I was talking about, so here's a copy straight from Youtube.
Let me try to wrap this up. Today's society is firmly rooted in the belief that you have to have a college education to be somebody or to grow a career. Most education facilities are not Godly. Why are kids leaving the church? It's because they're no longer growing in the church. In fact, a public education will educate them away from the church. After all, there's no scientific proof in the Bible, right? (So totally wrong. Click here for a free book with scientific proof for creation!)
Consider the fact that kids in today's government schools are not taught about a Christian God, but may be taught about other gods. Plus they are taught views opposing to what the Bible says. The Bible presents a universe that was created several thousand years ago for man and woman, with the intent that we were to have dominion, be fruitful and multiply. The public school system presents evolution and teaches how the universe and mankind were created during a happenstance explosion where chemicals seemed to come together to create life. That viewpoint of life takes away our reason for living. If we're here for no reason, why would we worship a fictitious God? Why would we obey the rule of law. Why not just have fun while we're on the big blue ball called earth.
Do you want your kids to grow up in the church? More importantly, do you want your kids to grow up with a real relationship with their creator? Then develop a loving relationship with them. Ask how they’re doing every day, listen to their response and care! (Big Mac, BLT…) Seriously. Take a moment and enjoy your kids while they want you to enjoy them. Before long, they’ll be too busy for you! Keep that relationship with your kids, and make sure to keep challenging their faith in God. Keep them growing in that all important relationship.
Below is the link to the NHERI Gen2 Survey
Ben Russell is author of "Noah Drake And The Dragon Killer". He writes Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction Adventures. He's not a scientist or a doctor of history; he's just a guy that's interested in those subjects. He's very interested in creation. His inner child gets excited about dinosaurs and the idea that they're not millions of years old. He despises the theory of evolution, believing it's a stumbling block to the Christian faith. Ben is a family man. He and his lovely wife have four happy kids and they make their home among the roaming hills of the Missouri Ozarks.