This week's post comes from Ashley Tripp, a University of Alabama alumni, who posted for Cru.org. As you read, ask yourself, "Do I need to hear this?" or "Is there an incoming freshman I could encourage this with?"
A growing trend reveals that college freshmen aren’t just preparing a goodbye speech to their families, but to their faith as well.
Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic, “[Freshmen] leave their church, the community incentives to attend it, and the watchful eye of parents who get angry or make them feel guilty when they don’t go to services or stray in their faith. Suddenly they’re surrounded by dorm mates of different faiths or no faith at all.”
However, because I attended a university in the heart of the Bible Belt, it came as no surprise to see many college students dressed in their Sunday best for church. But what did come as a shock to me was how these church attenders behaved the remaining six days of the week.
Attending church doesn’t make one a Christian, and yet, this is a lie many college students believe.
Even as someone who grew up in a Christian family, I struggled too with living out my faith instead of saving it for Sundays. Certain barriers pushed me away from experiencing the fullness of my relationship with Jesus. The majority of my first semester revolved around sorority life, school, dance and Alabama football. I didn’t get plugged in a campus ministry because I would make up excuses. I was becoming a part of the growing trend of saying goodbye to my faith.
Who knew I would need a spiritual survival kit in addition to my freshman survival kit?
It wasn’t until the spring of my sophomore year that I settled down and became invested with Bama Cru, Cru’s campus ministry at Alabama.
At Bama Cru, staff member Jeff Norris is “convinced that the greatest need that incoming college freshmen have is to explore and develop the spiritual area of their life.”
“One of the best ways to do this is in the context of community,” Jeff said. “Often times, freshmen are curious about faith and want to develop their spiritual life, but they don’t know where to start or who to start with.”
How not to lose your faith in college
Pursuing a relationship with Jesus and living out one’s faith seemed to be a thing of the past as I looked around at the brokenness on campus. Most students don’t come into college thinking they’ll lose their faith. But then to-do lists pile up, and it becomes a backburner. However, I found that my faith actually strengthened during college once I became more intentional about my activities.
These are a couple of things I found helpful:
1. Get Plugged Into a Ministry
Whatever your theological background, get plugged in with a group of solid believers who love God and love people. I chose to become involved with Bama Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ’s chapter at Alabama. Surrounding myself with a community of believers, I created relationships and gained a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. It wasn’t until college when I realized Christianity was not just a certain religion, but also a relationship with Jesus.
2. Take On a Leadership Role
Are you passionate about your faith? Seek after a leadership role on campus. I became my sorority’s chaplain and spread the love of Jesus Christ among my Gamma Phi Beta sisters. Some of my friends from Bama Cru led a six-week video series from Matt Chandler on dating, relationships and sex based off of the book of Song of Songs in the Bible. Open to anyone, the series was held at different sorority houses each week. In addition, my sorority collaborated with another sorority for a Bible study on Marian Jordan’s book, “Radiance.”
3. Attend a Summer Project
The summer before my senior year in college, I went on Greek Summit, a summer project led by Cru staff in Destin, Fla. There, I met over 100 college students from across the nation. The purpose of the mission trip was to learn how live out one’s faith and how to become an influence in your sorority or fraternity. It was probably the best two weeks of my college career. I learned a great deal about the Gospel and what it looks like to share one’s faith with your sorority sisters.
4. Make it a Priority
Reading the Bible and attending church is what “Culture Christianity” tells society is the right way to practice Christianity. I’ve discovered it’s a daily walk and a personal relationship. When I wake up, I do my best to make it a priority to spend time with God, not in a routine manner or because it’s my duty as a Christian, but because God is my reason for living. It’s almost like brushing your teeth. Do you brush your teeth because it’s a part of your routine, or do you do it so that your teeth won’t rot away?
With enough passion and perseverance, it is possible to live out your faith into your college experience.
Below is a true story of how God changed one freshman's life. As you read, ask yourself, "where do I find myself in this story?" This fall, might you, like AJ, have an opportunity to help a freshman like Sam discover what really matters? Or, are you more like Sam? Could God be calling you to find true, lasting satisfaction in Him?
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of this upcoming freshman class, and pray that God would open their hearts to Him and His great love!
When Sam attended his first week of college, he was not looking for a Christian group, in fact it was not on his radar at all.
Raised in a Christian family, he routinely went to Sunday School and youth group. However, when he started high school, he questioned the reality of God. By year 12 he was less interested in church, starting on a destructive path fueled by the approval of friends and lust of the world.
After an unexpected break-up with a girlfriend, Sam was shaken. He says: “I was dating a girl from youth group. She went to some camp, came back and didn’t talk to me for a week. She said ‘God’s telling me that it’s not His plan for us to be together.’ I was like, ‘He didn’t tell me that!’ I took it really bad.” Sam found solace in drinking. During his gap year after high school, he began clubbing, eventually pushing boundaries by experimenting with drugs like ecstasy. “I wasn’t happy. I knew something was wrong,” says Sam.
When the first week of classes rolled around, it had been two years since Sam attended church. That week, Cru ran a booth where they handed out spirituality surveys. Sam filled one out. A few days later, he received a call from a missionary AJ. Although hesitant to meet AJ, Sam did. Through their first meeting, God began to turn Sam’s life around.
AJ was there to listen, but strongly prompted Sam to make a decision about what he already knew to do. Sam checked out his first Cru group meeting and was refreshed by people different from his friends. They were not trying to impress each other and talked about things that really mattered. Sam started attending church again.
Sam began to recognize his sensual life of lust and drugs was eating him alive, and he could not break free. He says: “During the worship session I was on my knees and was crying; I was a mess. I knew something wasn’t right--something had to change. I remember surrendering my life to God.” From that moment the pleasures that consumed him lost power, and he began seeing victory over the sins that had plagued him.
The satisfaction Sam finds in pleasing God far outweighs his old habits, and he now lives with a passion to do what God is calling him to do. He lives in the ecstasy of new life in Jesus. Having open, honest and accountable friends from Cru has been a huge encouragement. Furthermore, being discipled by AJ has made a lasting impact on Sam’s life.
He says: “Every time I share my story, it just reminds me I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s God that has brought me this far. I can never go back.”
Sam is now happily married to a wonderful young lady named Eldora.
This story was written by Gina Liu on June 25 2012. You can find more stories like it at www.cru.org.
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