[283] In the Gap
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[283] In the Gap

Gone are the days when many Christian colleges could restrict their student enrollment to professing, evangelical Christians.  Now scrounging for freshmen, the gates of acceptance with respect to religious identification, have been widened.  In that context, many see the Christian college student population consisting of two groups—believers and non-believers—believers and those targeted for evangelism.  Technically that believer/non-believer split would be correct in any population, but in the Christian college we may want to include a third, “wedge group”: Children of professing Christian parents who themselves show no evidence of being believers.

There have been many studies on why children from Christian families do or do not “stay Christian.”  Lyman Stone, of the American Enterprise Institute, discussed this in Christianity Today (2/21/2020). The data indicate that the dividing line is the degree to which parents practice their faith at home. Here’s the punchline, according to Stone: “The key to successful transmission of Christian faith across generations is not more youth groups or hipper pastors but the Holy Spirit working through the vocation of parenthood as parents take the time to share their faith with their own children.”

Catechism begins at home. In fact, the odds of a child leaving the faith “are between one third and seven times greater in a household with little or no in-home catechesis than in a household where the family has regular religious practice together.”

You will find many of these leave-the-faith children in Christian colleges–institutions standing in the gap.  Voluntary chapel services won’t cut it.  The “wedge” group won’t be attending anyway.  They will also not be at events highlighting Christian entertainers.

There two things they will do.  One is go to class.  It is in class where they can be engaged in considering the truth of the gospel.  That is where they need to be exposed to truly Christian education, from courses in apologetics to Christian worldviews evident in non-religion courses. It has never been more important to hire Christian faculty, and beyond that, encourage and demand that they find a way to communicate their faith in their discipline.

They will also interact with other students.  Christian colleges would do well to train volunteer Christian counselors among their students, educating them to the characteristics of non-believer and wedge groups, and teaching them how to engage members of these groups in healthy, non-manipulative conversations.

It is the spiritual authenticity of Christian faculty and students to which these groups need to be exposed—a collection of people who genuinely live a Monday-through-Sunday life of intelligent discipleship, something neither group saw in their homes.  DC

 

 

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