we have a really good college group. i am really proud of them. they are hard working and have really begun to understand god's calling to a servant lifestyle. they are spiritually aware and have a deep awareness of god's presence and kingdom priorities. they have had good modeling and are well taught in the fundamentals of christian discipleship. and i like them. but i am painfully aware that they are not necessarily the norm, nor does having a good college group ensure that new kids will follow in their footsteps in years to come.
the college years are difficult and navigating through them is a treacherous journey where many, even most, fall flat on their face after they leave the protective womb of adolescence and the safety of the church youth group they have grown accustomed to. did i say treacherous? yeah.
there are a number of possible reasons for the drop off in church attendance (or the abandoning of christian lifestyle) once a kid enters college:
the new-found freedom is tough to handle... there is no question that adulthood and the post-high school lifestyle is one full of amazing opportunities for both good and danger. with freedom comes responsibility. unfortunately, that new-found freedom usually lacks the component of accountability. nobody even makes you get up on sunday mornings anymore!
new social circles... the high school youth group is a pretty cool entity. you don't have to think much. you don't have to plan much. you don't have to initiate stepping outside your comfort zone. it's full of familiarity, fun, tradition, and a ready-made group of safe, similar friends...even for the most edgy of kids. trips are planned. meetings are planned. friendships are orchestrated. spiritual experiences are blueprinted. life is good. when a kid goes to college, it is full of new possibilities and new friends and new circles. and nobody scripts out spiritual experiences.
the tidal wave of education... if high school kids think their faith is challenged now, just wait until their first philosophy or ethics class! or what about the first microbiology lecture? biblical faith is assaulted from the moment a kid sets foot on the campus of most any of our nations institutions of higher learning. defense of the faith can only be done by those that have built a defense. that leads to the next problem:
our youth ministries are not necessarily preparing our young people for what's ahead... kids are all about having fun, hanging out with their friends, pursuing their own dreams, developing strong and nimble digit motor skills (for effective computer gaming), and, did i already say...having fun? it's incredibly easy to play to the lowest common denominator when it comes to attracting a crowd of young people. just ask them what they want to do! often, church youth groups are nothing more than glorified boys and girls clubs with a spiritual veneer...and then they are left to face that reality as they naively wander off to college.
finally, our kids have watched the adults at church for years (often, their own parents) and have concluded "what's the point?"... they see adults who claim allegiance to christ and loyalty to the kingdom and, at a minimum, are confused. they see adults who are consumed with their own lives, their own homes, their own vacations, their own money, their own time, their own reputations, their own rise up the ladder, their own petty jealousies, their own unresolved anger, their own legalism, their own abuse of freedom, their own worries, their own fears, their own inconsistencies, and their own empty spiritual lives. what do we expect our young people to do with that?
what will you do to help change this trend?