As millions of college students — both brand new students and returning students — head to their campuses this week and over the next few weeks for their fall semesters, most of them are thinking of practical matters such as laptops, clothes, dorm room supplies and other such everyday items.
But for young Christians heading off to college, faith can and should be in their toolkit as well, advises Dr. Alex McFarland, a youth culture expert, author, and nationally syndicated host.
“We know from multiple studies that many young people do leave their faith in college,” McFarland said in comments shared with LifeZette on Monday morning.
McFarland regularly addresses thousands of young people each year through a variety of the programs, speeches and workshops he conducts.
“It may not be intentional, but slowly over four years, faith in Jesus can fade away in college,” he also said. “Students may find it difficult to connect with a new church or keep up with Bible reading and prayer without the support of their parents, youth pastors or Christian friends.”
“But there are specific actions students can take to make sure they stay close to Christ while in college,” he added. “Jesus longs for their soul at that very important time in their life, when they are making decisions and forming relationships that will impact the rest of their lives.”
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Simple but important actions, he says, can help young people keep Jesus at the core of their college career.
He created a list of seven ways young Christians can keep their faith strong while they attend college — which can also set a foundation for their faith practices after college as well.
Check out these tips:
1.) Find a local church. Leaving a home church for a semester in college doesn’t mean young people should leave church altogether. They can find a local church near campus, commit to attend regularly and join small groups of peers within the church.
2.) Be part of a Bible study. Even secular campuses have many resources for Christian students. All students can find a small group or Bible study to join. This may be made up of young women, young men, athletes or residents of the same hall. And if students can’t find a Bible study to join, they can start one themselves.
3.) Make new Christian friends. Youth group and church friends are probably scattered across different college campuses now. Young people can be intentional about making new Christian friends who will be good influences in their lives — and help keep them accountable.
4.) Connect with a Christian mentor. Many young people appreciate a mentor who is more experienced in their faith journey and can offer guidance and wisdom. College students can consider a Christian professor, coach or even an older student for this important role.
5.) Join a faith-based group. Nearly every college campus has a long list of groups and organizations that keep Christ at their center. Joining up will allow young people to find events, make friends and deepen their faith. Examples include campus chapters of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cru, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Ratio Christi, Young Life or dozens of others.
6.) Open the Bible along with college books. As students begin their studies, they can dig into their Bibles as well. Even with heavy studying loads, they can make time to remain in God’s Word — it’s crucial. They can find a devotional that speaks to them or download a Bible reading plan through an online resource such as YouVersion.
7.) Pray for God’s wisdom. They can dedicate at least part of their day to prayer to God, whether in the morning, during a walk to class, or as the day comes to a close. They can ask God for wisdom, guidance and perseverance to serve Him and follow His will.
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McFarland and other leaders at Truth for a New Generation (TNG) Ministries watched young people make long-lasting friendships and strengthen their faith at an intensive Youth Apologetics Camp earlier this month. There, nearly 100 attendees learned to stand “unashamed” for Christ and invested five days to “go deeper with God.”
And on Tuesday of this week, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and “The 700 Club” will feature a report on Truth for a New Generation camp.
The segment will air on August 20 at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET (depending on region). Also, CBN recently did a story on McFarland’s youth apologetics camp.
Through Truth for a New Generation, made possible in part by Liberty University, McFarland also hosts national and regional conferences that aim to help students, parents, youth pastors and community members lift up this young generation, pray for them and empower them to stand strong in their faith. Two events in Richmond, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, are planned for this fall.