Are Your Christian Students Ready for College?

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My good friend and partner in mission, Jonathan Morrow has been an inspiration and source of information for many years. Few people have dedicated themselves to the cause of equipping and encouraging young Christians as has Jonathan. He’s the author of Questioning the Bible: 11 major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists, and Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture. He’s also the Director of Creative Strategies for Impact 360 Institute where he teaches in the college “Gap Year” program and high school summer Immersion experience. He’s recently updated an important book he wrote several years ago, entitled Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey. Sean McDowell described Welcome to College as his “go-to book for helping students prepare to succeed spiritually, relationally, and academically in college.” I recently had the opportunity to ask Jonathan a few questions about his book:

J. Warner:
“Why is it important to equip young Christians for college? What makes this group different than non-Christians?”

Jonathan:
“The college years are critically important. If you get off course in high school or college, it can have life-altering consequences.

Here are clarifying questions I like to ask students, “What story do you want to tell about the college years? Someday you will walk across the graduation stage and be filled with either satisfaction or regret. Which one do you want? Eventually you will summarize your college years in a few sentences. Why not go ahead and shape your future now?”

This final question will give students clarity. They also need to decide if they are serious about following Jesus or if they are going to drift into “playing Christian.” If they are serious about following Jesus, then they can set the destination they are pursuing early on, which will make all the difference. As Christians we are called to more than just surviving—that’s the heart behind Welcome to College.”

J. Warner:
“What are some of the unique challenges facing young Christians when they go to college?”

Jonathan:
“College isn’t what it used to be. And many students raised in the church are not ready. You may have noticed in the news that free speech and historic Christian beliefs and values are not exactly being celebrated on campus or in our culture today.  The tyranny of tolerance is alive and well.

Depending on the survey you look at, about half of Christian students will disengage from their faith / church after they graduate high school and head off to college. If you care about the next generation as I do then this should break your heart and serve as a wakeup call that “business as usual” is not working out so well.

As I have taught and worked with high school and college students over the past 12 years I have seen a lot of different scenarios play themselves out. Here is one of the most common pathways.

A student who has a primarily emotional / sentimental faith will find it wilting very quickly in the heat of real world challenges on campus. When a student moves from one group where their childhood beliefs were the majority view to a new group where they are now in the minority view, they face significant pressure to modify or reject those “outdated” beliefs. When they have left the bubble, will they stand?

That is why we must train our students to know why they believe what they believe. It’s not a matter of if but when the challenges will come.”

J. Warner:
“How does your book help accomplish the task of preparing young people for the university experience? What is unique about your book?”

Jonathan:
Welcome to College is everything I wish I would have known during the college years. Young Christians are growing up in a culture that is deeply confused about what is right and what is true. It’s hard for them to break free from the riptide of relativism, but if you lose truth, then you lose Christianity. Period.

Students need to know how to understand, explain and defend objective truth. Without training, they will simply fall into the default settings of those around them. When the pressure is turned up and the tyranny of tolerance presses in, Christians tend to wilt if they do not have the confidence that only comes from knowing why they believe what they believe.

Essential areas they need to be ready to engage in during college: How do I know God really exists? Is truth relative? Who was Jesus, and did he rise from the dead? Can you trust the Bible in the 21st century? How do I have helpful spiritual conversations? How can Jesus be the only way to God? If God is good, then why is there so much evil? I cover these and other practical questions like dating, sex, dealing with doubt, and how to resolve conflict with roommates as well. Because Christianity is true, it applies to every area of life. So I try to cover all the main questions that students have to engage during college.

So you can read the book straight through or you can pick the topics that you are facing and start there. I have been so encouraged to hear that many youth pastors are buying copies of Welcome to College for all their high school graduates. And parents are buying the book and using the discussion questions in the back of the book to take their students through their junior and senior years of high school to get them ready.”

J. Warner:
“Where can people learn more about your work?”

Jonathan:
“As they read Welcome to College, they can visit me online at JonathanMorrow.org for more resources, podcasts and videos to help them along the way. Also parents can send their students to spend either 2-weeks during the summer at Immersion or 9-months at our Christian Gap Year building a biblical worldview and being trained to own their faith with us here at Impact 360 Institute where I teach.”

If you’ve got a young Christian who’s getting ready to enter college, or you’re just appropriately concerned about the future of young believers, you need to read Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey. I cannot recommend it more highly.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith.

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