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Why Do College Students Lose Their Faith?

Answers | Sun Valley Community Church | 8 mins
Lifeway Research found that in 2017, 66% of those polled said that they stopped attending church regularly between the ages of 18 to 22. This number was down from 70% in 2007, but the 2:1 ratio still leaves the disturbing question: Why do so many college students lose their faith?

God has no problem with Christians learning about the beliefs of others, and He encourages us to examine our own — as long as it's done in reverence. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Colossians 2:3), so when we look to Him for answers, He will gently show us the truth. Whether you're a parent preparing your children for college or a student transitioning into this new season of life, here are three ways to remain anchored in your faith as you evaluate the truth: 

1. Read and Pray

It may sound obvious, but you shouldn't assume that your faith will grow if you don't take the time to develop it — and that doesn't happen on its own.
Your faith is a relationship with God, and relationships require nurturing. They need ongoing, two-way communication to thrive, and prayer and Bible study provide exactly that. When you pray, you talk to God, and when you read your Bible, He talks back. Paul writes that the Scriptures are "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16) — and who wouldn't want that? When we pray, like small children speaking to their father, we pour out our hearts to God — and no concern is too small. 

If you want to remain rooted in your faith, make a point of cultivating a daily habit of Bible study and prayer time — and start now. It may be difficult if you’re overwhelmed with reports and social opportunities and finals week, but remember that while all of those things will only last for a little while, your relationship with God is forever. 
Some say that spiritual disciplines like regular Bible study and prayer are legalistic — that you're acting like you're saved by your works — but they are missing the point. Of course, you are saved through your faith in Jesus Christ alone, but when we are in a relationship with someone we love, don't we make a point to spend time with them? You're likely to enter the workplace, get married, and have children after college, so your life is only going to get busier. Those who think they can put their relationship with God off until a later time will never develop it at all, so start now and build time for communion with God into your everyday life. You'll be glad you did.


2. Seek Godly Relationships

College can either be a time of great loneliness or great friendships, but most of the relationships that you'll have will be brand new. That means exposure to entirely different worldviews than the one you're used to, but there's no reason you can't make Christian friends too. 
There are many Christian organizations that enable students to connect with other believers. On-campus ministries like Chi Alpha and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship host Bible studies, prayer meetings, and social gatherings to build community, and many others exist as well. Most universities also have at least one church nearby that would love to reach out to college-aged believers, so finding a local church may be easier than you expect. 

If you're walking through the journey of examining your faith while in college, you're not alone. Christianity was meant to be lived out in the context of community, so finding other believers can benefit both you and your friends — and never underestimate the value of finding an older mentor who's been there before. The Bible says a lot about the importance of practicing our faith together (Proverbs 27:17, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Acts 2:42-47), and when we develop Christ-centered relationships, we can resist temptation, hold each other accountable, learn from one another, and be there for each other as we grow. Everyone wins with community. 

3. Start Asking Questions Now

Unfortunately, many believers were given little opportunity to evaluate their faith when they were young. Whether they were kept from asking questions because their parents were afraid they wouldn't have the answers or they were just trying to protect their children, the result was a faith that wasn't prepared to give an answer for its hope (1 Peter 3:15). 

Just as small children ask questions so that they can learn about the world around them, it's good to bring your questions before the Lord. It's important that we ask our questions in humility and trust our Father even when we don't have every answer, and God will often give us understanding if we seek it out with an open heart. Proverbs tells us to search for wisdom as though it were hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4-5) — the question is where we should look. False teachers abound, especially in college, but God has given us all we need to know in His Word. God wants us to go to Him with questions about our faith, but we must do so with an understanding that our Father knows best even when we don’t see answers. 

If you have questions about Christianity, read your Bible diligently and seek out teachers who explain the meaning of the Scriptures directly from the text. Don't assume that what a pastor or Bible teacher says is right until they prove it to you from Scripture. Take your questions to the Lord in prayer, tell Him that you trust Him, and ask Him to reveal the truth to you while guarding you against error. And parents, allow your children to examine their faith while you can still help them work through their concerns. It's okay not to know every answer, and you may be leaving them vulnerable when their faith is challenged in college. 

He'll Finish What He Started

College can be a tumultuous time for many young believers, but it doesn't have to be. Some students leave college with a much stronger grasp on their faith than they ever had before. They develop spiritual habits that they carry with them for the rest of their lives and make relationships that they'll never forget, having wrestled with questions they were once unable to answer. 

It may still be daunting to think of all the temptations, exposure, and busyness your faith will have to endure, but as inadequate as we are for the challenge by ourselves, "He who began a good work in you will see it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus," (Philippians 1:6). College is a time of great flourishing in every part of our lives; if we seek Him, our Savior will see to it that our faith will flourish too. 

Check out Young Adult groups at Sun Valley! 

Written By

Sun Valley Community Church

We as a church exist to help you meet, know and follow Jesus. No matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you, God loves you and you are welcome at Sun Valley. 

Published on Jan 25, 2022