Personal: What Example Do We Set?

April 22, 2013

My thoughts here are for my edification. I have definite opinions that are, for lack of better terms, of a conservative bent and will most likely offend on some level readers of this blog. My intent is not to offend. Nor is it to open up to debate my personal beliefs. If my beliefs cannot be respected, please do not continue reading this post and come back on another day.

I just spent a weekend with my mother visiting my alma mater. It had been 17 years since she had been back; 21 years since our first spring trip to the campus to interview for scholarships. The reunion itself is for another post and might be an interesting follow-up to one of my most shared posts and Pinterest repins (My 20 Year High School Reunion).

We were able to visit with the congregation that took me in while I was a student. For the most part, everyone is still there. One of the founding families moved for job opportunities. Most of the children I was a babysitter and nanny for are finished with college and some are married with children themselves. But the men and women who opened their homes and welcomed me as an adult remembered me and welcomed me “home.” I have visited over the years and had brought T1 &T2 with me but I admit it has been a few years.

One phrase that got me thinking about this post was “We just haven’t had another college student like you.”

I have been thinking about T1 & T2 and their college futures. I’ve been reading several articles pinned on Pinterest by JenontheEdge. T1 only recently had an epiphany about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life and T2 has known for years (yes, years) what she wants to be. For T1 now comes finding out where she wants to go. She’s been to teen events that have recruiters from the Christian colleges and the allure is there. I have opinions about a Christian college education and I share them with her. They are not my mother’s.

My mother had a missionary uncle who went to a Christian college. He wrote a thesis as to why we shouldn’t send our children to such institutions of higher learning. My mother subscribed to this and held fast to it as she (and I) got a lot of pressure from the other parents about sending me to a Christian college. This weekend she asked why I never asked to go to one of the Christian colleges. While I was aware of the huge price tag and knew it was out of our means, I was at a crossroads in my faith and I knew myself well enough that if my participation in religious activities was mandated, I would have rebelled. At that time I was the only family member attending services with my mother. I wanted to know why I believed, what I believed–was I only going for her or did I believe it truly myself? Mandatory chapel every morning was going to do nothing to help me find those answers.

But that was me. And I knew myself. I also know others where Christian colleges solidified their faiths and they had faith-affirming experiences and I would say they probably have stronger faith than I do today. But I know others who were going to a Christian college to get an “MRS.” and they are divorced and rarely darken the doorstep of a church today.

So what would I tell T1 & T2 if they asked to go to a Christian college? The first question I would ask is, “Why do you want to go?” Certainly if my children mentioned anything about being sheltered or protected from the world I’d have to say “Then you will never be salt to the world.” If they say they want to look deeper into their faith out of a questioning, I would say a good local congregation could help you find that and might provide a more balanced view. If they were to say to help find a Godly mate, I’d have to point out that I found their father at church, not school. I have talked to T1 that now that she knows what she wants to study she now needs to find the schools that offer the best program. I’m not an expert but I don’t know of a Christian college that has a particularly strong engineering school (I am only thinking of the ones that still use “Christian” in their description–I haven’t looked at Perdue or Pepperdine, both of which started as Christian schools but have distanced themselves from their roots). We have a young friend who is thriving at a Christian school and started in their nursing program–I’d have to ask T1 if there aren’t just as good or better nursing programs right here in our state.

Bottom line is I’m not opposed to it if both the reasons and my daughter’s faith were sound. Now is the time for research and looking at the different disciplines of engineering to help her make her choice.

T2 is a little different. Our big thing is helping her decide whether an associate degree or a more marketable 4-year degree is in her best interest. Her interests could send her to my alma mater. And I know her spiritual growth will be well looked after.

But do I? I was not the only member of my congregation to attend my alma mater at the time nor since. But I was the only one who went faithfully. Why? What was the difference?

One of the members said to me that the first time they saw the family of a college student was the weekend he graduated–he had been there four years and they had never come to church. Surely his parents had visited him Parents’ Weekend or Oktoberfest. Graduation weekend is the first time they show up at church?

The church is in a quandary about why our young people are leaving, why we’re not meeting their needs and they’re seeking elsewhere. I would pose this theory: perhaps when we drop our 18 year-olds off at school without making the effort of finding a congregation for them to worship at we send this message: church is not important, especially not while you’re sowing your wild oats and “finding yourself.”

My mother and I attended evening services in a little VFW hall during freshman orientation weekend. Information was exchanged–like where my dorm was, when freshmen reported back, etc., and they gave me phone numbers and times for services. I was greeted as an adult–something I didn’t get in my home congregation. But I guess subconsciously even though the choice was mine, even though I wanted to know if I was merely just believing for my mother’s sake, the impression was going to church is important.

Maybe that’s the difference. Maybe that is the example. Even though we push them out of the nest we can’t just assume they will make good decisions right of the bat. I live in a college town now and I have to say, not a single out-of-town college student has sought us out, nor have their families (and the college will not allow us to establish a club without it being student driven). But maybe it is simpler. The difference could also be that I myself was searching and I wanted answers.

Sometimes they won’t have the opportunity to attend a congregation of the same faith (the Chief did not have a congregation meeting anywhere near the academy, and he too went through a little rebellion of sorts) but that might make them appreciate finding a congregation after schooling. I think that was the case for the Chief (and I was there *bonus*).

No matter where T1 & T2 go to school I will make the effort to show going to church matters. I won’t make it an ultimatum–it is their choice–but I will help to make the connections that may turn into lifelong relationships and a “home away from home.” When I think of reunions at my alma mater it is always more about seeing my “family.”

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