College can be a crazy, scary time.
And this is especially true for Christian students.
Anywhere from 50-90% of students who grew up in Christian homes, leave the faith during their college years.
Most Christian freshmen will experience more powerful challenges to their faith than they ever had previously.
There will be temptations and social pressures from friends, intellectual challenges from professors, and on top of it all, learning to live life with newfound independence and autonomy.
But not all Christian students fall away.
Christians can not only survive, but thrive on the college campus.
I just finished my college journey and by God’s grace I’ve made it through more confident in my faith than ever.
I want to share with you 6 things that not only helped me stay a Christian, but grow in my relationship with God throughout my college years.
1) Recognize you’re not the only Christian on campus.
This won’t be as much of an issue if you’re attending a faith-based university, but in a secular university this can be difficult.
I lived my first year in regular college dorms. I lived with a roommate, and had a mix of male and female rooms down the hall. There were a lot of different personalities in the 40 or so people in my hall.
Little did I know moving in, about 10-12 of them were Christians! Through conversations with each person in my hall, a small faith community grew in my dorm - some of whom I’m still good friends with today.
Sadly, many of my friends had the opposite experience and didn’t find a core group of believers in their dorm their first year.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other people on campus who desire to grow in their faith.
But how do you find these people?
That’s why this next step is so important.
2) Recognize you’re going to have to work for it.
Finding a group of Christian friends and a faith-based community can be daunting.
You can start in your dorm asking locals if they know of any good churches near campus.
Or, the boldest thing you could do is start a Bible study in your room and post an advertisement on the bulletin boards around your dorm. Even if only a few come, it just might be a community that helps carry you through college!
Additionally, most campuses have some sort of “Student Organization Night” where you can meet students involved in a variety of clubs. Find some Christian clubs that appeal to you and visit.
But through all of this, you’re going to have to get up and go.
No one is going to make you do it.
You have to decide being a Christian is important to you and you will do whatever it takes to follow Christ.
It will take a lot of work at first, but I guarantee that it will be worth it.
3) Join a campus ministry.
At Grand Valley State University, we had several Christian organizations. There was Campus Ministry, InterVarsity, CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ), Ratio Christi and more!
Each of these were different and had different focuses. I knew people that loved each organization, but I also know of people who tried one club, and opted for another who fit their needs and personality better.
What all of these clubs had in common was a desire to preach the gospel and proclaim the words of the Jesus, and if there’s a club like that on your campus, take advantage of it!
Pray for God’s leading as you search, and try one of the organizations for a while to see if it’s a good place for you.
4) Find a local church.
One of the things that I appreciated about Campus Ministry is that they always emphasized finding a local church to attend, and not just coming to CM on Sunday Nights.
It’s important to find other Christians at different stages of life who can act as friend and mentors who can invest in you, encourage you, and give you a break from the college scene!
Here at Allendale Baptist Church, I found a community that poured into me. I was invited to meals by people in the church. I was even offered to use a member’s washer and dryer if the occasion ever arrived that I couldn’t get laundry done!
But most importantly, I was fed the word of God by imperfect, but ever loving and improving people. I joined a college/young adult small group on Wednesday nights. I met two of the most biblically intelligent people I’ve ever had conversations with or heard teachings from.
You may have a church back at home with people that are very near and dear to you. Definitely don’t forsake that community and use them as resources!
But finding a community near where you live can be such a life-giving experience in your day to day activities when you struggle with stress and business of college.
5) Ask questions.
Christianity is under a lot of scrutiny, especially in college.
Some people question Christian beliefs and even more seem to have criticisms and outright attacks!
So as you start having doubts and questions that you don’t know the answer to, or even more frighteningly, if you’re directly asked a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t push it to the side.
Ask the question.
Ask the question to a Pastor or member of your local church or home church.
Ask the question to your parents or a friend.
Ask the question to Google or YouTube if you need to!
But never be afraid or feel like you’re a bad Christian for having a question or even doubting your faith.
Not only does it help grow you spiritually in certainty of your faith, but it helps equip you to help someone else with their doubts and questions.
Here’s some good sites to run your questions by:
And if there's a Ratio Christi club on your campus bring your questions there as they specialize in answering deep and difficult questions.
6. Be In God’s Word Daily.
This may seem basic, but in order to continue to grow your faith, you must, above all else, continue building your relationship with Jesus.
Deuteronomy 8:3b says, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Whether you’re by yourself, in a small group on campus, or reading while hearing a sermon, you cannot forsake your time in God’s word and expect to grow from its teachings.
Find a consistent time, morning, evening, or between classes, where you know, for the most part, you won’t be busy. Use that time to enjoy His word. If you don’t know how to study God’s word, find a mentor, or buy a devotional! There are many that focus on specific topics while still using the word of God as support.
You can be a strong Christian during your college years.
We were made to have a relationship with God and others, so as you commune with God in his word and join a community of believers, you will flourish in your faith.
Starting the journey to finding a healthy faith-based community isn’t always easy, but as someone who just graduated, it’s so incredibly worth it.
The times I spent with my Campus Ministry small group or my Allendale Baptist Church small group during the week were some of the most peace-filled moments of my week.
Make sure you’re also utilizing the people around you! If you make a friend in the area, try the church they attend! It’s a lot easier to go to a new place with someone you know and trust.
It’s not hopeless trying to keep your faith in college. Pray, and be active in allowing God to use you in the community He places you in.
Your college years may not always be easy, but they can be good because He will always be good.
Luke recently graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Computer Science with a minor in mathematics. He is enjoying being a programmer and working on his home with his wife.