Over the years I’ve had hundreds (if not thousands) of students come through my college ministry who have grown up in the church. Some really do well searching through and embracing their faith on their own. Others struggle to such a high degree that they leave the church all together. But then there is a group that not too many leaders or books address and talk about: those still around, but are apathetic and bored.
What do we do with these students? How can we encourage them to be passionate about their faith?
Here are a few things I’ve seen contribute to people being in this place and some thoughts on how to help them:
- Thinking they know more than they actually do. Many college students have a facade of knowledge. They think that because they know some about scripture, that they know scripture. This is easy to confuse, but it’s a big difference. We need to help them understand the difference. Not doing so creates an arrogance that can quickly lead to apathy. In a loving way we need to keep asking questions about how the scriptures apply to every day life. When we do this, they typically realize they don’t know as much as they think they do.
- Not embracing/seeking to live out what they do know. There are some people who do know a lot about the scriptures, but are bored with their faith. This tends to be because they’re not trying to live out what they know. If they were, they’d be anything but bored! In these situations we need to help them differentiate between simply knowing information and having godly wisdom. Godly wisdom comes through life experiences of seeking to live out the truths of scripture. In a loving yet firm way we need to confront them with this reality. Some think the scriptures or church are boring….but maybe it’s just their “faith” that’s boring. I’ve found it to often make a difference when I explain this and then show them how my faith is anything but boring.
- Thinking they are spiritually mature. I’ve found that clearly defining spiritual maturity really helps in this. I’ve began using the following definition for spiritual maturity: the time between hearing and obeying God’s word is less than it used to be. This definition really helps in this situation.
- Thinking through who they are and what they believe. I sometimes make the statement that college-age people are constipated. I don’t mean to be crude, I am simply saying that many are stuck in life. They are processing through so many unanswered questions and at times this can be entirely overwhelming – causing them to lose passion for pretty much everything. In these situations we need to pay the price of time and walk slowly and patiently with them. Your presence and example can be the thing God uses to bring them to a point of passionate conviction.