By Jasmine York
It’s almost inevitable that everyone’s faith will be challenged at some point, and that’s why it’s important that teens start college with a firm foundation so their spiritual transition is a smooth one.
It’s not uncommon for teens to leave their faith behind once they leave the nest to attend college. In fact, if they’re not prepared, they face real spiritual risk during the transition. But Tommy McGregor, author of “Lost in Transition: Becoming Spiritually Prepared for College” and the founder of TheTransMission, shared a few tips to help teens keep the faith in college.
McGregor was brought up in the typical Christian environment. He grew up under the instruction of active Christian parents; he regularly attended church services, and was surrounded by Christian mentors and Christian peers. However, “When I went off to college, I spent two years struggling in my faith,” said McGregor. He attended a small Liberal Arts College with “minimal campus ministry involvement.” While McGregor was able to satisfy his social hunger by joining a fraternity and forging new lifetime friendships, he failed to satisfy his spiritual hunger, which led to his spiritual decline.
After a while, McGregor found ways to regain the faith-based community that he lost and has since helped many others to do the same with this advice:
Own your faith.
In most cases, a teen’s tendency to lose his or her faith in college is because they have not yet gained ownership of it. “They’ve never done things on their own before and are not sure who they are, so they search for identity in lots of places,” said McGregor. This is where parents can step in before their teen moves away and prepare them to live independently, not just physically and financially, but spiritually as well. One way parents can help is to have their teen evaluate why they believe or practice what they do.
More than 50% of the non-religious Millennial generation has abandoned their childhood faith
According to a Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs study.
Rebuild a spiritual community.
If teens attend a college in another town, not only will they leave the nest, but they’ll also leave the four spiritual influences that helped to shape their faith-based community: family, friends, spiritual mentors and their religious center. The community is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, grow in one’s faith, and keep a sense of accountability. If a teen doesn’t rebuild a spiritual community in their newfound home, they’ll be more susceptible to straying away from their faith altogether.
If “keeping the faith” is important, then take note of the faith-based organizations and activities at the colleges your teen is considering.
“Faulkner University encourages the development of personal faith. Our executives, faculty and staff seek opportunities to mentor, encourage and serve our students in a variety of ways: chapel, devotionals, study groups and community prayer.” - Scott Gleaves, Dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Faulkner University
“Lost in Transition: Becoming Spiritually Prepared for College” is available at TheTransMission.org