According to new research, the number of American adults who describe themselves as Christian is down 12% over the past decade, and the amount of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen to 17% since 2009.
For more than a generation, American Christian colleges have increasingly compromised their values to the point where it’s often difficult to distinguish the difference between religious and secular higher education institutions. As a result, too many young believers seeking to form their Christian worldviews have given up on the idea that a Christian college can help them to do that. With no faith reinforcement throughout their college experience, many once Christian students lose their faith before graduation. What’s more is that those who retain their faith throughout college still lack a strong biblical foundation and sense of calling in God’s kingdom.
I believe the Christian higher education system must take responsibility and do something.
The college years are deeply formative. They are a time when young people should be cementing their worldviews, learning to articulate their beliefs and gaining confidence in both. Unfortunately, many have adopted the perspective that college is, instead, a season when students should be left to spiritually fend for themselves, a mindset as detrimental as it is unbiblical. Author Francis Schaeffer well describes the vitality of a biblically-based worldview: “People function on the basis of their worldview more consistently than even they themselves may realize. The problem is not outward things. The problem is having, and then acting upon, the right worldview – the worldview which gives men and women the truth of what is.”
For many, college is the first time students are away from their families, their home church and their trusted friends. In many ways, it is the ideal time for Satan to infuse doubt about “what is.”
College students are searching for something steady amid change. They need something to trust when their future starts to look hazy. If they have no spiritual guidance, they will lean on whatever provides a temporary sense of stability.
It is of paramount importance that Christian colleges diligently disciple their students and train them in the Word of God. It is the responsibility of collegiate leadership to point students to the ultimate truth when they question what is right, to encourage them with God’s everlasting Word. The school should be there when they face adversity and be a mentor when they need guidance.
We never outgrow the need for spiritual guidance; it’s the very reason why Jesus instituted the church and sent the Holy Spirit. And yet, many colleges that claim Christianity act as if their students should be left to disciple themselves.
Intentional discipleship within Christian colleges is a matter of spiritual life and death. At Sattler College we desire to Light the world through relational discipleship and academic excellence.
Dean Taylor is president of Sattler College in Boston, MA. He holds a Master’s in Health Science from Texas Wesleyan University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas at Tyler.