Hold on to Your Christian Values... Even in College
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Preparing for college can be fun. iPod? Check. Clothes? Check. Cell phone? Check. Credit card? Check. Christian worldview support system in place? What?
As we head into fall in the northern hemisphere, many students are entering a new school year—in college or university classes or perhaps in their local junior high or high school. If you're one of them and are a Christian, odds are you haven't given much thought to your Christian worldview support system.
You may have carefully planned your class load or electives, but you probably have not considered the need for help in keeping your Christian perspective intact. However, many Western nations are experiencing an increasingly secular worldview, and education often seems to lead that charge. After all, many consider it more erudite to think we human beings can make all the decisions about what is right and wrong without help from anyone.
To help students hold on to their Christian values as they enter the college or university world, I interviewed three college professors who are Christians. I asked them for their advice on helping students remain true to their Christian beliefs when it seems these values are undermined at every turn. Here is the panel and their answers to the questions posed.
Rick Avent, who has a Ph.D. in civil engineering, recently retired from Louisiana State University. He taught at Georgia Tech for six years and Mississippi State for seven years and spent the last 25 years of his career at LSU.
Howard Baker, who has a Ph.D. in business administration, is currently teaching online classes for Argosy University. He taught for 11 years at Ambassador University, four years at the University of Texas at Arlington and seven years at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. In addition, he has taught at Jarvis Christian College and the University of Texas at Tyler for several years.
Randy Urwiller, who has a Ph.D. in English, teaches at Texas College, where he has been for the last eight years. Prior to that, he spent nine years as an instructor at Ambassador University.
What obstacles have you seen that challenge students to remain Christian, and how can those be combated?
Dr. Urwiller: The social scene, which is new to freshmen in college, is a huge pull on students. It's very easy to get pulled into habits and activities that are in conflict with Christianity when young people are out on their own and away from the daily influence of parents and grandparents. Students should very carefully consider the reputation of the educational institution.
Dr. Avent: For years I taught a class to sophomores called "Introduction to Engineering" and required them to give "This Is My Life" speeches. Some described getting in with the wrong group right off the bat in school. They got into trouble, flunked out and had then come back years later when they were more serious about life and education. You need to think very seriously about who your friends will be.
Dr. Baker: Seek out others with conservative views. Many are churchgoers; and even if their doctrines are not exactly in line with yours, they can be a good support group. Many students have sought me out and would spend time chatting with me in my office because they felt I had similar moral values. They would seek me out as a mentor and take many of my classes to have their moral values reinforced.
Dr. Avent: I've experienced the same thing over the years. If you can find and relate to a faculty member of high morals and religious values, it makes for a strong mentoring relationship.
Dr. Urwiller: Colleges are starting to build "cohorts" of 20 to 25 students. Often they are randomly selected and assigned the same classes since studies have shown that students who "connect" with others on campus have a higher retention rate in college. Christians should create their own cohorts of other Christians, choosing their friends carefully. I normally sat in the front part of classes where the more serious, hard-working students sat and established some good relationships.
Dr. Baker: Resident life is a growing problem. Many schools have coed housing, which is an obvious conflict with Christian morals. In addition, for some being away from home for the first time opens them up to the pull of over-indulging in alcohol. I would suggest that Christians consider staying at home for the first couple of years and attending a community college (making sure the classes will transfer). You save a lot of money and have a more conservative environment. If you cannot do that, consider living off campus with a fellow Christian.
Dr. Urwiller: There is also the problem with drugs. College is "the real world" but perhaps even more intense with the desire to experience pleasure. To resist this pull, Christians should be sure they maintain their prayer life. They should focus on their relationships with God, other church members and their family.
Dr. Baker: They should also maintain a social life with church members—especially if there is a congregation of their church in the area. Don't just attend services. Get involved in the congregation. Find out if there is someone else in your church going to your college.
Dr. Avent: I would also encourage students to focus more on what they want to study before they leave for college. Most today are woefully unprepared in knowing what they really want to study and switch majors, quickly losing time and money.
What about getting off for special religious days? What advice do you have for students who keep the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) and the Holy Days of both the Old and New Testaments?
Dr. Baker: Our son Greg went to the University of Notre Dame and was apparently the only Sabbath-keeper there at the time. So it can be done. Be wise and study the school's class schedule. Do they offer alternatives to Saturday classes? If you keep the biblical Holy Days, check to see if more of them are on M-W-F or on T-TR in the fall and plan your fall classes accordingly.
Dr. Avent: The best advice I can give if you want to get off for the fall feasts of the Bible is to do all you can to be seen as a serious student. Don't wait until two days before the Feast. Start preparing and establishing yourself as a serious student early.
Dr. Urwiller: After what we've said it may sound a bit scary, but college can be a lot of fun as well as educational. But you must be aware of what's around you and work to maintain your moral footing. After a year and a half you get to study what you really like. If you're the first in your family to go to college, talk to others in your congregation who have gone to college. That can help remove some worry and doubt. VT