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June 25, 2014 / BTM

What I Wish I’d Known Before I Went to University

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I recently had the opportunity to meet an intelligent young Christian woman who is proactively learning how to discuss her faith in a secular society.

Why is she so dedicated to doing this?  Because her Christian upbringing had completely failed to prepare her for the challenges of secularism, religious pluralism and atheism at university.

This young woman grew up in close-knit, loving Christian home.  She faithfully attended church.  She was enrolled in a Christian school that taught subjects such as apologetics, hermeneutics, inductive Bible study and managing relationships.  Her parents cared about her spiritual formation.

And yet, this is how she describes her university experience:

“Although I was still living at home during the beginning of my freshman year, university was traumatic at best. I went from a class of 15 in a small Christian school, to 30,000 people at a public university.

The most troubling thing was the amount of differing beliefs and worldviews I encountered, from professors and other students. At the time I thought they had much better arguments than I did for the validity of their views.”

Added to her challenge was the fact that her faith was borrowed, not her own.

“I can honestly and sadly say that as I started my freshman year at age 19, my faith was very much borrowed. It was a set of rules to adhere too. Although I was well aware of the concept of a relationship with Jesus Christ, I did not have it. I was entrenched in the notion of conforming to what people wanted me to do in order to escape condemnation and judgment.”

“My faith at the university was non-existent. If you asked me what I believed I would say Christian, but I did not back that up with any action whatsoever.”

As a mom of two young boys, the top-of-mind question I had for her was: what did she wish she’d known before she went to university?  Here is her answer:

“I wish I had known that it was okay to doubt; it was okay not to know the answer; and that it was okay to ask hard questions and to challenge the answers.

I wish I had known that there was so much evidence in favor of a creator.

I wish I had known more history and had had a broader perspective on how the world operates.

I especially wish I had known arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, and had known enough to realize how real He really is and to have made Him the foundation of my life much earlier on.

I wish I had been exposed in-depth to different world religions, what their beliefs are and the historical background on which they lay.”

Remember that this young woman grew up in a home with regular family devotions and discussions about faith.  However, questions like: ‘How do I know that God exists?’ would send her parents into a tail spin of worry that she was losing her faith.  It became easier to conform to what they wanted her to be, than to openly question her faith under the safety of her parents’ roof.

“My parents had absolutely no idea what went on at university and therefore they had no idea how to help me prepare for it.”

Here is her advice to us as parents based on her own experience:

“If I could go back in time and talk to my parents as they were raising me, I would make these suggestions:

  1. Throughout the phases of my childhood, expose me to different types of social situations with people from all walks of life. I think having experience talking with a wide range of people with differing worldviews is so important. In other words, get me outside the safe Christian “bubble”, but do so with the support of parents and with an open discussion of why people think/believe differently and why we believe what we believe. Do not just tell me “believe this because I told you it is true or because I said so.”

  2. Learn what is going on in popular culture within my peer group. What are kids my age thinking, watching, and listening to? Be involved; don’t view every outside influence as a threat, but help and encourage me to analyze situations and make decisions accordingly. Don’t try to shelter me from everything. I need to develop confidence and a foundation in the little things if you expect me to be able to take on the big things at university.

  3. Don’t use me to make you look good in front of other people at church, I can see straight through that. It does not feel good and drives me far away. What matters is what is going on inside, not what is projected. Looking perfect and going through the motions does nothing. The very basis for Christianity is what is going on in the heart. Only by letting Jesus work in your heart can actions follow with true authenticity.

I loved her advice.  It’s a big challenge to Christian parents.   I personally find this motivating to me as I launch into my summer plans to teach various aspects of the Christian faith to our kids.

What is your reaction to this?

How do you feel about allowing your son or daughter to be exposed to undesirable aspects of secular culture?

Are you prepared to allow your son or daughter to express his and her doubts openly, without judgment and without a launching into a prepared sermon?

How honestly are you concerned with your child’s inner belief as opposed to the external portrayal of it?  What are you doing to find out what that inner belief is?

How seriously are you taking the challenge of learning what your child’s peers are watching, thinking and listening to?  Are you discussing this with them?  How?




Leave a Comment
  1. Jennifer / Jun 25 2014 12:34 pm

    This is an encouragement to me as I navigate the public school system with my young child. Sometimes it is overwhelming, seeing all the ideas that she is being exposed to that are so accepted and promoted but are simply not true. The positive is, we are getting many opportunities early on to discuss these issues and to prepare her to think critically, measure everything according to what God says in the Bible, and to know how to live in a world that may “hate” her and everything she believes in.

  2. Robyn / Jun 25 2014 12:36 pm

    Great article!

  3. natashacrain / Jun 26 2014 12:38 am

    Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ll be linking to it.

  4. Rick Yuzzi / Jun 27 2014 1:17 pm

    Great article, and very true. I think it’s important to also expose kids to some of the in-house debates in our faith, such as young-earth versus old-earth, eschatology, and predestination– especially if they are in a Christian school that differs with your own beliefs on one or more of those issues. They need to know that these are ideas that can be debated but that we don’t need to divide over. Otherwise they may think they’re getting mixed messages about their faith, when the basics are still clearly defined.

  5. Wintery Knight / Jun 27 2014 2:41 pm

    Great article – I linked to it on my blog. Really helps parents to understand that just plain religious family stuff is not going to cut it at the secular/leftist university.

  6. Mark McNeil / Jun 28 2014 3:38 pm

    What Christian kids are not prepared for is the hyper-sexual lifestyles where only sex matters. I don’t, however, understand college faculty promoting a bacchanal degree instead of a real education.


  1. Advice for Christian parents from a woman who left Christianity at university | Wintery Knight
  2. What I Wish I’d Known Before I Went to University | A disciple's study
  3. The trouble with avoiding controversial topics | Wintery Knight

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