[Note: This letter is intended for Christians headed to college in the next few weeks. I have incoming freshmen primarily in mind, though others may also find value here.]
You will be heading to college shortly, and I can remember the wide range of emotions you’re probably experiencing. It will be an exciting time of life: you’ll have freedoms that you haven’t had before as well as demands that you weren’t expecting. Hopefully some parent or pastor or friend has encouraged you to think deeply and carefully about these next few years of your life and how you might honor God in them. There are even some book-length resources you might consider reading (see Thriving at College by Alex Chediak). I have a shorter, more personal plea:
Don’t waste your college.
You will likely have no better opportunity in your life to influence people for Jesus Christ than when you are a college student. Simply put, this is the one time when you are living (sometimes uncomfortably) close to many other people, experiencing a lot of the same things as they are. There are loads of empty spaces to fill with discussions about morality, religion, philosophy, and big big questions about life. And people will listen to you! Your shared experiences and shared space give you a credibility and voice that will be respected.
To be sure, there are opportunities after college to share the gospel, invite neighbors and friends to church, and open your apartment or home for Bible studies. But in my experience nothing compares to the urgency and passion of conversations and relationships at college.
In fact, this is the way God gripped my heart with the gospel. Some friends at college invited me to Christian fellowship meetings, church, and a conference. And since I heard the gospel afresh one night in 1995, my life has been different.
Let me leave you with a few suggestions. Most of these ideas are born from observations and a sense of regret at advice unheeded when I was a student.
- Be honest, early. From day one your roommate, hallmates, and classmates should know that you are a Christian. You should be respectful and not annoying about your faith, but you should also take the opportunity from the beginning to identify yourself with Christ. These people don’t know your background, so you have the opportunity to put your best foot forward in this regard.
- Find a good church. Ask pastors/elders in your current church for recommendations and look online to scout out a Bible-believing church close to campus. The good churches would love to get a phone call asking about their pickup services!
- Invite friends. Invite them to church, invite them to fellowship meetings, invite them to whatever you’re doing. Some will say no, but some might say yes! Even when you go to a church or Christian fellowship event alone, talk honestly with non-Christian friends afterward about the event. This is often when great conversations take place.
- Start a Bible study on your hall. Yes, really! Your hallmates will probably be more open to this than you expect. The goal here is to bring your friends into an encounter with Jesus and His words. Look at a gospel together and let Jesus’ claims, predictions and promises wash over your friends. Make them argue with Jesus, not you. Don’t be afraid to identify with Jesus and stand firmly on His word.
You’re heading off on a really exciting journey. Too many students get swept up in the fun and intensity of college and turn inwards. But if you belong to Christ, you know that your life story is ultimately not about you.
Don’t waste your college.
Yours in Christ,
This is a slightly-updated version of an article that originally appeared on this blog on August 11, 2011.
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