Staying Christian in College—Part 3
We have been sharing posts that our 2017 interns have written about their experiences of “Staying Christian in College.” Today’s post is from Mallory T. who is spending this summer as a digital content intern for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Social media, music, movies, and other varying forms of popular entertainment have generated a stigma as to what an American college experience is supposed to look and feel like. That stigma combined with a breakaway from strict high school rules and the anticipated chance at a fresh start tends to, unfortunately, provoke college freshmen to go wild.
At some point, you’ve likely seen posts or pictures online from older friends who went off to college and made the absolute most of it—in the rowdiest of ways. They make their late nights on the weekends sound worthy of envy and their one-class-a-day schedule seem luxurious. It’s because of all these influences that Christians entering the college scene struggle that much more when leaving home. I know, because I’ve lived it.
Practically every school night, I find myself in need of a study break at one point or another. Scrolling through a Facebook or Snapchat feed tends to be my go-to and it never fails that I see friends out having fun on a random Thursday night. I’m not judgmental about their decision to go out and have fun, but rather I judge myself for staying in and working so hard during the days that are supposed to be the time of my life.
To be honest, it’s defeating and disheartening at times. It’s in those moments that I have to remind myself of the convictions I have through my faith in Christ which led me to the school I attend, the topics I study and the waywardness I avoid.
So with all the noise buzzing around you during your college years, how does one stay Christian in college? The answer is complicated and different for everyone.
My first piece of advice is to walk into college with a mindset that the foremost reason you are at school is to get an education. Personally, I have to write down academic goals for myself at the beginning of each school year to keep my head on straight when the work gets hard. I can assure you that if you care strongly about your grades and academic performance, making good decisions will come naturally.
But exceling in academics doesn’t directly enhance your faith in God; extra energy will need to be devoted to strengthening your relationship with Jesus. It’s almost guaranteed that you will find yourself feeling spread too thin during college. Between going to classes, making friends, doing homework, joining clubs, etc., the last thing you’re going to want to do is make time for God. Trust me when I say there will be moments when you hardly have time to care for your physical needs, much less your spiritual needs.
I encourage you to keep a calendar or agenda of some sort and physically pencil in time with God. Life will already be chaotic enough that you’ll want something to keep you on track. A small agenda to carry around with you will keep you on schedule, and if it is written down that you are to read your Bible for 20 minutes after dinner, you’re more likely to do it.
Making new friends is a central part of going off to college. You’ll naturally meet new people through your various college activities, many who won’t be believers. While those friendships certainly are fruitful and can be opportunities for ministry, fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ is crucial to maintaining your faith in college. Seek out godly friends by joining Christian clubs on campus where you’ll probably find opportunities to participate in service projects while simultaneously building a Christian support system.
Something I didn’t expect when I started college three years ago was the vast amount of diverse opinions and perspectives I would be introduced to. Regardless of the school you choose, at some point or another your beliefs will be tried and tested to the fullest. Truthfully, that is the point of college.
College is intended to break you from a parochial view of life by exposing you to new ways of thinking and perceiving the world. That’s scary for most people and often why some even experience an identity crisis in college. As a Christian, however, you are in a unique position because your identity is found and established in Jesus Christ. You’ve heard God’s Word and know the difference between the Truth and empty philosophies, so don’t be afraid to hear lectures on something foreign to you. Stand firm in the beliefs you’ve developed throughout your faith walk, but remember that it’s important to cultivate your opinions, thoughts and ideas.
My final piece of advice during your college years is to find a Christian mentor. College is a whirlwind of hard work, time management, friendship building, and faith development, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Get connected to a church in your new community and likely there will be an ample amount of people willing to support you, encourage you and pray for you every day. They’ve been through it all already, so they will have the wisdom you need on the days you lose and will cheer you on the days you win. They might even cook you homemade meals or send you care packages!
I’ve learned that one of the biggest lies a bright-eyed college student can buy into is that if you don’t have a stereotypical college experience filled with mistakes and recklessness, it won’t be a good one. College is definitely a chance to create memories, make friends, and discover new things, but it can also be the challenge you need to mature your faith and grow closer to God. And wherever God is at the center, it’s sure to be good.
As a special encouragement for graduates, receive a free copy “How to Stay christian in College” by J. Budziszewski when a newly graduated student or parents of the student visit the Library (while supplies last). Check in at the Guest Services counter at the Billy Graham Library when you arrive for your free gift!