October 14, 2010
For many young people, college life marks the transition from adolescence to maturity. College is the time when the young leave the nest and spread their wings, intellectually, spiritually and socially. They learn new ideas and discover the truth about the world and themselves. They absorb not simply the knowledge, but the attitudes of their professors and friends.
Away from the immediate guidance of their parents and the safe environment of the home, college students have to make new choices every day for themselves. The once regulated hours of school, family time and church give way to the rhythm of college life. Classes scheduled day and night. Sleep caught on the run. Long hours of social networking. Sports. In the transition, for some, church attendance becomes a book on the shelf waiting to be opened only before the final exam.
In the classroom, college students listen to some professors who find no meaning in religion. Materialism, atheism, agnosticism, relativism and secularism have seeped into the academe. Some professors are heirs of the Enlightenment. They find it difficult to reconcile reason and faith, science and religion. They subtly pass on this conflict to their students who then begin to question their own commitments, their own beliefs and practices. Not to appear less than intellectual, some students may make the choice to suspend their religious practice.
According to recent statistics published by The Pew Forum, 43.7% of students in their freshman year attend church frequently. But, by junior year, only 25.4% attend church frequently. Thus, there is a drop off rate of 18.3% in frequent attendance among college students between the first and third year of college.
Juniors who give up the external practice of church attendance report feeling more depressed than they did as freshmen. Not turning to a higher power outside of themselves on a regular basis as part of a worshipping community leaves them without a solid support to deal with the stresses that they face in the classroom, dormitories and places of entertainment. With marriage and children, many will return to regular church attendance. But what happens in those in-between years?
Those students who continue to attend church say that church is vital to their relationship with God. Most of the students whose church attendance diminishes still consider themselves spiritual. Why, then, do they no longer make the time in their lives for worshipping God with others? Why do a few go as far as abandoning their faith? How do our young people view religion and commitment to Church?
Higher education expands the intellectual horizons of students. But do the secularizing tendencies of higher education corrode their religious practice? Sixty four percent of students in a four-year college institution attend church less regularly. Yet, for their peers who do not go to college, the non-attendance at church is higher. Seventy six percent of these young people do not go to church regularly. Thus, professors antagonistic to religion seem to have very little success in dismantling the faith of their students. The cause for a drop-off in church attendance for college students lies elsewhere.
To be continued…..