Two weeks ago on a Friday night, I sat in a room full of teenagers. We sang and prayed together, then watched a virtual message by what should have been our speaker at Student Camp.
(COVID, however, had other plans.)
So instead, we were squished together in someone’s basement, making the most of our “Not Camp” experience. I listened as these about-to-be College Freshmen answered some thought-provoking questions on how to keep their faith in college.
They discussed what it means to find our identity in Christ. They mentioned how easy it is to get distracted by what we do or to define ourselves by what others think of us. Yet, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that God is the author of life, not us. The best we can do is intentionally seek Him and live with open hands.
I looked at these teens whom I’ve grown to love and found myself wondering: As they look towards the future, how are they going to be intentional about allowing Jesus to write their story?
A few days later, I sat on my back porch with one of those Senior girls. Lord willing, she will be heading off to college in a week or so, and I wanted to make sure she was prepared for some of the challenges that lie ahead. I know she loves Jesus, and I have watched her slowly move Him up her priority list over the past three years. I have no doubt her heart’s desire is to live boldly for Him in college!
But sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can get so distracted by what’s right in front of us that we lose sight of what we want most.
So here are some of the questions I asked my young friend that day. Maybe they will be helpful to you (or someone you know) as well.
Questions to help you keep your faith in college
1. What do you want to change about yourself from who you were in high school to who you want to be in college? What will you need to do differently to make that happen?
2. What are you looking for in your friendships? What is your plan for finding those kind of friends?
3. What are your biggest fears about college? What do you think will be your biggest temptations?
4. What do you want your spiritual life to look like this year and how will you accomplish that?
What to expect
We talked about how fear, excitement, and nervousness are all normal emotions going into a new adventure like this. It’s perfectly okay to experience conflicting emotions! Trust me, your parents are feeling the same way!
We talked about how the environment you put yourself in will likely determine your friendships. It will also greatly impact your level of temptation. If you want Christian friends, hang out where you’re likely to find other Christians- church, Bible Study, campus ministries, etc. And be the kind of friend you hope to find!
(**It is particularly important to think through this under the current COVID restrictions. With many churches and Bible Studies still online, you may need to do a little research before you go on ways you can get connected with other Believers.)
We also talked about how everyone feels lonely sometimes, even people who are really, really happy and living their best life! And how, while you don’t want to wallow in those feelings, you also don’t want to ignore them, hiding or camouflaging them with busyness and other empty things.
It’s good to let yourself sit in it for a moment, acknowledge it…
And then turn to Jesus.
Let Him remind you that even though you feel lonely, you are not actually alone. Let Him fill those parts of you that are aching, and then listen to how He directs you…
Should you spend time alone with Him?
Reach out to a new friend?
Call a trusted adult?
He’ll let you know.
But if you ignore those feelings and rush through them, you might just miss an opportunity to grow.
And that’s what college is all about: growth.
If you want to grow spiritually, you are going to need to be intentional.
Hopefully, these questions will help you start on the right track!