by Ken Farmer, Vice President for Academic Affairs, God’s Bible School and College Revivalist
Prospective college students are in a state of flux. Developmental psychologists and counselors describe a period of “storm and stress” where issues related to identity and autonomy dominate personal struggles. Some have even proposed that a period of adolescent rebellion is a necessary phase in the rite of passage into adulthood.
While we agree that adolescence involves a struggle to forge identity, we do not accept that this must involve repudiation of all good upbringing. But late adolescents do need some emotional distance from parents to grapple with life’s big questions. They need a safe place to work through this. Voilá—the college experience!
The sad fact is that 78% of all Christian young people who go to college choose a secular institution. So, what’s wrong with that? This choice does fit with the wishes of many parents. They are misty-eyed as little Johnny heads off to college. They just hope that “he has it better than they did.” They talk about careers and “real degrees.” Hesitant of “letting go,” they tend to favor cheaper colleges closer to home. Their hope is that Johnny will be able to come home more frequently. Normally he doesn’t; and when he does, Mom might not recognize her little Johnny.
Remember, Johnny is grappling with identity issues. This is a vulnerable time for him. According to Chickering, seven tasks are paramount at this time. Developing purpose, identity, and mature interpersonal relationships, as well as managing emotions, are among these.
Statistics show that too often secular college is likely the wrong environment for Johnny. A national study tracked Christian students and found that after four years of attendance at secular institutions, 34% of those who had identified themselves as “born again” no longer did so. Another 28% did not disavow the “born again” label but admitted that they had not attended a religious service even once in the last year! Therefore, the effective religious dropout rate for Christians at secular institutions is at least 62%, with some suggesting the rate to be as high as 75%!
What is behind these statistics? Derek Bok, President of Harvard, says, “Education offered to undergraduates has become incoherent and incapable of addressing the larger questions ‘of what we are and what we should be.’” These are the very questions that are crucial during college. College faculty determine the specifics of the curriculum. It is stating the obvious, but faculty at secular institutions are not “one of us.” One candid humanist professor admitted, “When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we…do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization…. I think these students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft of people like me and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Will Johnny be able to stand against such onslaughts?
One secular physicist talked about using students’ trust against them. “I use that trust to effectively brainwash them…,” he explained. “[Our] teaching methods are primarily those of propaganda. We appeal— without demonstration—to evidence that supports our position. We only introduce arguments or evidence that support the currently accepted theories and omit or gloss over any evidence to the contrary.” It is worth noting that scholarly studies clearly show that students are influenced greatly by the values of the faculty who instruct them.
But Johnny is not only at risk from secular faculty but also from fellow students—the type not likely to be beside you in your church pew this Sunday. Almost a third (29.0%) are cigarette smokers. One-third (34.5%) admitted episodic heavy drinking, 27.4% drove after they had been drinking, and one in five (20.4%) female students reported that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse. Not the godly influence you are hoping for!
A SAFE PLACE:
In contrast, God’s Bible School and College is a safe place at this important time in student development. Yes, our campus affords some emotional distance from parents; but it balances this with a supportive environment in which students can carefully and prayerfully work through issues relating to God’s purpose for them. Important things they had taken for granted—accepted as facts just because they were told so—will be thoughtfully explained. While secular faculty may seize this opportunity to tear down, our faculty see it as an invitation to build up their students and help them formulate a truly Biblical worldview.
Can we guarantee that all students who attend GBSC will maintain their relationship with God? Unfortunately, no. Henderson notes a 6% dropout rate among those attending Christian colleges. Should this happen at GBSC, however, it will not be because the faculty undermine their faith or because the student body pressures them to do what they know is wrong. While there are struggles, our campus is a safe place. It provides space to learn about oneself: how to be in relationship with others, how to lead, and how to serve.
Yes, attendance at secular institutions is extremely risky to one’s spiritual health. But what has been shown to increase adherence to faith? The answer: student involvement in area ministries and services. At GBSC, students will have ample opportunities for ministry. In fact, our curriculum requires it! Each degree has a specified number of Christian Service credits necessary for graduation. Students have options to be involved in a variety of ministry opportunities. And, of course, attendance at religious services is mandatory. In addition to three weekly chapel services and Wednesday evening prayer meeting, there are also special events like revivals, missionary conventions, and camp meetings. Additionally, students are active in local churches and other ministries.
My point is this: Johnny should come to one of our Conservative Holiness Bible Colleges! We will do our best under God to help him develop a biblical worldview and to prepare him for a lifetime of Christian service.
Henderson, Steven (2003). The Impact of Student Religion and College Affiliation on Student religiosity, p. 10. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Arkansas.
Chickering, A.W. and Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity, 2nd Ed. Jossey-Bass.
Railsback, G.L. (1994). An Exploratory Study of the Religiosity and Related Outcomes among College Students. University of California, Dissertation Abstracts International, 55, 03A.
Bok, Derek (2005). Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More. Princeton University Press.
Brandom, Robert, Ed. (2000). Rorty: And His Critics, p. 22. Blackwell Publishers.
Singham. Mano (2000). Teaching and Propaganda. American Institute and Physics (“Physics Today on the Web”).
Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research. Jossey-Bass.
Center for Disease Control (1997). National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (U.S.). Center for Disease Control.
Henderson, Steven (Not dated). Why Choose a Christian College? Unpublished and undated presentation delivered at an ABHE Annual Meeting.
Henderson, Steven (2003), p. 163.