Are you planning for your child to leave your home for the Christian college campus? How are you preparing for that transition? I’m not framing that question in terms of empty nest or emotional management plans. I’m interested in knowing how you’re preparing your child for this transition. Did you know that many children are lost as they go off to Christian college each fall? It’s not only possible, but a sad reality that many parents lose their child on a Christian college campus. I would like to propose five important truths to communicate to your child before they leave home for the Christian college (or any college for that matter).
Communicate the gospel clearly
Many parents have done a great job of teaching their children the Bible, but that’s not always the case. A great number of parents live life with the idea that the youth pastor in the local church and Christian schools are given the responsibility of discipling their children. That could not be farther from the truth. According to Bible (see Deut. 6; Prov. 22:6), the task of discipleship rests upon the shoulders of the parents. Therefore, no parent should expect their child to go off to a Christian college and become a strong Christian if that foundation has not been established in the home. Take time to clearly articulate the gospel to your children and ensure that they understand the gospel without question. Don’t assume anything as you prepare your child for transition to college.
Warn your child that their new Christian college campus will be filled with….sinners
No matter how well parents seek to train, disciple, and prepare their children for the real world, surprise is inevitable. It would be wise for parents to prepare their children for the reality check that awaits them on the college campus. Fellow students will engage in grotesque sins while on the Christian college campus, and this is not only outrageous – it’s normal. In that same vein, the professors and faculty members on the Christian college campus are sinners too. At some point or another, the Christian college professor will disappoint students. Sin is not just out in the world, it’s living and abiding in the heart of every human being. Preparation begins with proper self-introspection prior to student body evaluation. The reality of a sinful world is necessary for students to navigate the challenges of sinful attitudes, motives, and habits of the very people they will share their college campus with. There is no such thing as a Christian utopia – not even in the Christian college world.
Remind your child that the local church is a must
Does your child understand the necessity of the local church? When students are forced to live hours away from their home church, unless they’re well connected in a local church setting, they will likely waver and enter into a great spiritual slump. It’s just as important to search for a good local church near the college campus as it is in researching the school’s accreditation, reputation, and academic value. If the school is wonderful but there isn’t a good church nearby, it would be best to choose a different school. You can’t put academic education on a higher plane than spiritual maturity and growth.
At the end of the day, the Christian college serves as a parachurch organization. The church is vitally important and must never be replaced or overshadowed by parachurch ministries. The oversight of pastors, accountability and encouragement from fellow church members, the faithful teaching of Scripture, and the observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper cannot be replaced by colleges or campus groups made up of students and faculty. Your college student cannot be discipled by other college student for four years. Your child needs to be mentored by older and faithful Christians through a local church body. Just as parents guide and assist in the selection of the right college, it is likewise the duty of parents to be involved in the selection of a healthy local church for their child while away at school.
Teach your child that professors are not pastors
A large percentage of students go off to college and build close relationships with their professors. This can be a healthy thing, but in some cases it can be extremely dangerous. Because of the educational position, degrees, and accomplishments of many professors, the student body will often become enamored with professors as intellectual superheroes. The Christian student must be prepared for this ahead of time and must be taught to respect their professors without idolizing them. Furthermore, it would be wise to teach your child that they must be under the authority and care of faithful pastors. Good professors are not enough, pastors are essential. Unless taught to submit to biblical authority in the a local church setting, your student will likely learn to live a sinful life while earning a Bible degree.
Make sure your child knows that the Bible is sufficient, trustworthy, and authoritative
Many students have gone off to college only to grow cold and antagonistic toward the Bible. It happens when they go into their first New Testament or Greek class and learn that we don’t have one single original document of the sixty-six books that make up the canon of Scripture. If not taught properly by faithful professors, students can be led astray to doubt the veracity and authority of the Bible. It would be wise to build a good foundation at home regarding the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible before your son or daughter moves their furniture into their dorm room. It’s a sad reality that many professors, even on the Christian college campus, have a slanted agenda when it comes to the Bible. Be careful and exercise great discernment.
When it comes to Christian bookstores and Christian schools, many Christian parents lose all biblical discernment powers. For some reason, the very word Christian when used as a title for a bookstore or a school campus is like Kryptonite for the Christian. It’s vitally important that Christians exercise great discernment when preparing their child to enter a Christian college. Not all Christian colleges are Christian these days. Not all Christian college professors believe the gospel. Not all books that appear on a syllabus for a Christian college class will actually teach true Christianity. Discernment is necessary no matter what title or denomination is attached to the school. Not only should Christian parents exercise discernment, but they too should teach their children to do the same.