What can Christians do to survive in college? Dr. Michael Kruger provides practical advice and encouragement for believers on keeping the faith while faced with doubt in college.
Every year in America, usually in late summer, early fall, there are Christian parents all over the country that have a lot of anxiety. And there’s a reason for that—because many of them have children who are heading off to college, perhaps even for the first time. I’ve been there as a parent. Right now, I have two children in college and have had that experience where you have raised a child, you love your child, you’ve taught them the Gospel and the Bible, and you hope you’ve done a good job as a parent, and then you send them out the door. And the reason parents have angst is because they know that college is not an easy place for a Christian to be these days. At big universities, they’re going to get bombarded with all kinds of ideas, are going to get challenged on what they believe. And oftentimes, universities can be even a hostile place for Christians. And so I get asked all the time, “What can Christians do to survive in college? What can parents tell their children to think about and value as they think about how to survive in college?” Well, there’s so much to say about that topic. I’ve written my book, Surviving Religion 101, where I dive deeply into that.
Take College Seriously
But a number of things I tell people are just important to know: first, I just want to tell them from the outset, take this seriously. I see kids go off to college like, “Oh, I’ll be fine. Nothing to see here,” and they’re not worried about it. Certainly, you don’t want to have extra anxiety about it. But students need to realize, look, this is a tough spot. You need to take this seriously. You need to be on your guard, so to speak, aware that when you step out your door, as Bilbo Baggins says, you never know where the road’s going to take you. And you’ve always got to be ready for whatever adventure God brings your way.
You Won’t Have All the Answers
A second thing I would say, as someone heads off to college, is to realize you’re not going to have all the answers. I’ve been amazed at how often a Christian will go to college, get asked a question he doesn’t have an answer to, and suddenly, he feels like his whole faith is falling apart. Just because you don’t have an answer doesn’t mean there’s not an answer.But I just want to reassure you, don’t expect you could ever have the answer to every question you’re going to get asked. I mean, why would you expect that? Certainly there’s lots of things that we all don’t know, and so, it’s going to happen. You’re going to get asked a question that you don’t have an answer to. But don’t take that as a reason to think that there’s not an answer. Just because you don’t have an answer doesn’t mean there’s not an answer. Take a deep breath, and know that you can find the answers to your questions if you just go searching. And this is what’s great about college. College is the opportunity to realize you don’t know everything, to realize that there’s challenges to your faith you can’t answer, and then you go and do the hard work to figure out what those answers are. And be reassured: there’s hardly any question that comes up that hasn’t come up before. [It] sounds new to you. [It] sounds like no one’s ever thought of this. I can promise you, people have thought of this, and people have answered this. You just need to do the hard work to work your way through those things.
Don’t Do It Alone
And the last thing I would say here, as you think about college, is really what I call my “horror movie” advice—which I know sounds kind of funny, but I love scary movies. And one of the things you see in scary movies is the protagonist always makes the same mistake: they go off alone in the dark. When you have doubts, when you have struggles in college, don’t go off alone in the dark.And if you’re watching a scary movie, you may even be yelling at the screen saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t go off alone in the dark!” Well, the same advice applies to college. When you have doubts, when you have struggles in college, don’t go off alone in the dark. Stay in the group and stay in the light. And what that means is that when you go to college, you need to think about finding good Christian fellowship. You need to make sure that you’re in a place where you’re working through your questions, you’re working through your challenges and doubt, in Christian community. This means finding a good church that you can worship at faithfully, finding a campus fellowship that you can plug in to and build relationships. This is going to make a huge difference as you head to college, and it’s one of the top pieces of advice I give to students as they head out the door.