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Will Students at Christian Universities Still Leave the Faith?

When it comes time to make a choice for college, many Christian students choose a Christian school because they want to grow in their faith. As Christianity in America continues to decline at rapid pace, a majority of teenagers drop out of church as young adults, and researchers project that 35-42 million youth raised in Christian homes will depart from their faith over the next 30 years, many parents feel that sending their child to a Christian college is a better option than a secular college.

We might assume that young people will be less likely to leave the faith if they attend a Christian college and are surrounded by Christian mentors and peers. However, a 2019 study published in Christian Higher Education discovered some surprising trends.

1. Young people will struggle with doubt no matter where they go to school.

This study revealed that students at evangelical colleges and universities will still struggle with their faith, and are actually more likely to feel “unsettled about spiritual matters, unsure of their beliefs, disillusioned with their religious upbringing, distant from God, or angry with God” than their peers at secular universities.

The research highlighted that the main difference is not “if” students at Christian colleges will process doubt as they come of age, but “when”.

2. Young people at Christian colleges will still struggle… just later.

Researchers found a trend that typically, most students will have more doubts as freshmen but these faith questions will largely have been resolved by their junior year. About three years into their college experience, students at most universities have wrestled and found satisfactory conclusions.

However, researchers found an opposite trend for students attending schools in the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities). Students feel confident at the start of college but find themselves in a crisis of doubt around three years later.

3. The questions are familiar and common.

A Christianity Today interview highlights questions from students at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana. Young people struggle with questions like, “Does God really love me?”, “Am I good enough?”, “Can a loving God send unbelievers to hell?”, “Why does God answer some prayers and not others?”, “Is Christianity the only way?”, and “Is God really real?”.

Regardless of where we are coming of age, these are questions that are common to us all– and exactly the sort of questions Faith Ascent pushes students to begin wrestling through while they are still in high school.

Base Camp speakers and small groups discuss these questions each year at camp, and on a weekly basis in Trail Head (our online discussion forum) students are processing many of these same doubts.

It’s a privilege for Faith Ascent to walk alongside students and parents and help prepare young people for these questions that inevitably come in their late teens and 20s. 

Learn more about Base Camp or talk to us about attending Base Camp 2021!