As a Christian and a student at a liberal, secular university, I can say that the peer pressure to conform to non-Christian beliefs and values is staggering. The general atmosphere that surrounds many colleges and universities in the US is the belief that a student, no matter their background, should attend college with an open mind to new ideas. This seems great; on the outside, an open mind is presented as a belief that could only lead to an improved lifestyle. However, this belief leads some Christians to innocently question why they believe what they do, and then to a stronger, more assertive reason not to believe the same thing they did when they first came to college.
It begins as soon as you get to the dorms. Making friends can be difficult. You’re at a new school, and you might not know anyone there. Unfortunately, it is especially difficult when the majority of students seem to be participating in activities that you were told were wrong: underage drinking, drugs, and sexual activity—right in the room, down the hall, or on the floor where you live. They also invite you to participate, and no one is there to tell you it’s wrong anymore. What’s the harm? More than the fact that two-thirds of the activities mentioned above are illegal, (and that they also go against God’s law), it can affect your school performance. You’re at school to learn, and partying the nights away with friends can lead to extremely unproductive semesters. I’ve known people who have had to drop out of school because of this.
Beside the new friends you make, there’s the ever-present idea that what your parents believed was old fashioned, counterintuitive, and hateful. Being a Christian often means disagreeing with the common views on campus, such as social or political views, or controversial topics such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Speaking against those topics can lead to many heated arguments—and the loss of "friends." It seems as if open discussion is only encouraged when you agree with the socially acceptable viewpoints.The important thing to remember is that disagreements are never going to be easy, and you’re not going to please everyone.
1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” God calls us to proclaim his Word! Just because you’ve now moved away from home and no one is there to push you to attend church doesn’t mean your own self-discipline should slip. Believe me, it’s just as easy to skip class as it is to skip out on church on Sunday mornings. Many campuses, or the surrounding cities or towns, will have a Lutheran church that you should be able to join. In fact, look for a church home at www.lcms.org/LCMSU. Here are six tips you can try to immerse yourself in the campus church life:
- Go to Bible studies during the week.
- Attend mid-week events, such as social activities with other students.
- Complete service activities with your church group at the local food banks or shelters.
- Take a weekend to go to a conference or listen to a speaker to strengthen your faith.
- Volunteer your time at the campus church center—help with whatever tasks that may need to be done!
- Join a leadership group or committee to help with service projects, funding, and outreach.
If your campus church doesn’t have some of the suggestions listed above, talk with your pastor about how you can help your church become more involved.
Leaving the faith isn’t an instant change. It starts gradually; it may start with your new friends’ snide remarks and activities. Perhaps, as you go to class, you may notice that some of the professors you look up to don’t agree with Christianity, and you may wonder if you’ve been wrong this whole time. You might decide to skip church one week because of a big test on Monday, and then at the end of the semester you look back having never entered the sanctuary.
Don’t let peer pressure or the effects of college affect your faith. If you find that you’re struggling to maintain a consistent Christian mindset, call your parents or your pastor back home. Join a Lutheran campus ministry and become involved. I know it can be difficult, but keep up the faith in college. Don’t let the devil tempt you with short-term results and dead-end promises. Remember also that you are a child of God, and that you will always find forgiveness in Christ. Stand up for what you believe in. Let Jesus be your light, and seek Him in all that you do.