Moving from their parents faith into a faith of their own is something every college-age person works through. In fact, not only does this impact the detachment of high school grads from Christian communities, but it’s an issue all religions face. This issue of college-age people separating from the roots and convictions of their parents is not just a Protestant Christian issue: it’s a college-age stage issue.
This is very important to realize and interact with as leaders. Dealing with this issue and guiding their reevaluations is essential in college-age ministry! If we’re not the ones guiding their questions someone else will. Sadly far too many are being guided by others outside of our faith convictions.
But, how do we guide our people toward biblically mature conclusions? How can we force thought in the right direction? For me, it comes down to asking the right questions. Here are 5 questions I’ve used to get people thinking about what it is they personally believe – I’ve even used these all for one talk. I’ve found these five questions to lead to great discussion and help college-age people think through what it is they actually believe, themselves. These types of questions help them move past a religious conscience driven by parents and into a personal faith of their own:
- How do you know you’re a Christian? It’s important to force this question to move beyond the religious routines of life. If your student replies with anything behavioral in their life (going to church, being born into a Christian family, reading their bible, etc.), reply to them by asking, “Well, is it possible for a person to ‘do’ all those things and not be a Christian?” It’s absolutely crucial to get our students moving beyond simply doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things! We don’t want to negate proper conduct, but we do want them to think through this deeper than behavior.
- Why do you believe the Bible? If your students reply with talking about the Bible’s credibility through history or prophecy fulfillment make sure you ask them specifically what they’re referring to. Most just say this, yet have very little knowledge of the historicity of the Scriptures. Forcing them to think beyond simply regurgitating something you may have taught them is vital in this stage of life. If they bring up these types of things be sure to force them to state specifically what they mean, pointing to specifics. If they do in fact point to specific things, ask them how they know that’s true! Is it because a Christian book told them so? Is their faith based on what some author says? How do they know the “evidence” that particular author brought up wasn’t based on a Christian bias? You can even ask them directly, “Well, people of the Jewish faith take the same evidence we use as proof for our faith and use it to support theirs. What do you do with that?”
- How do you know you believe it? The point of asking these things is to get them thinking about the abstract elements of faith, beyond scientific research or anything they’ve read. The reality is there is a plethora of “scientific evidence” that opposes our faith. People of the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. faith have plenty of evidence they hold onto as well. So, what does your student do with that? Are they aware of that opposing data? Ultimately we need to get them to come to the reality that their belief’s must move past any other persons observations of creation or history (i.e. Science). If we base our faith on scientific research our faith isn’t really in God, it’s in the person who performed the observations. So, what does your student have “faith” in? We cannot negate all science, but we also can’t base our faith on it.
- What do you think the difference between conscience and faith is? The reality is too many high school students graduate with much more of a religious conscience than they do a personal faith. It’s very important for your students to think about whether they have a conscience or a faith. A conscience is based on information we’ve received. A conscience affects our behavior, but unfortunately it doesn’t save us. Faith does. We have to help our students decipher between these two. A faith is unwavering, no matter what anyone says. It’s deeper than information and data. A conscience however is solely based on information heard or read, thus making it easily swayed by differing information. Ask your student, “Do you think you have more of a conscience driven by what you’ve grown up with, or a personal faith of your own?”
- What do you think a mature Christian looks like? By the time you get to this question they will likely be hesitant to answer with anything behavioral. It’s likely that after asking these five questions and replying to their answers with more questions/challenges your students won’t have much to say. They’re even likely to be a bit confused. This is perfect and exactly where you want them to be. By getting them to this point you’ve caused them to dive into the area of faith, beyond religious routine and behavior. Now, you can begin to guide their thoughts!
I’ve found that if we are the ones getting them to the point of questioning their own “faith,” we set ourselves up to be THE one’s guiding it! If we leave it up to others with other faith convictions to cause our students to dive into the abstract areas of faith, we lose.
I’ve asked these questions in large formats as well as in one-on-one times over coffee. These may seem very intellectual. That’s because, well, they are to some extent. But, we have to dive into these areas of our students. Moving past all physical observations and behavioral routine is getting into the “faith” of an individual person. Granted, I realize that conduct is an outcome of a faith we hold, but on the flip side we can go through life doing all the right things and be nothing more than a Pharisee. This is not where we want to be personally, nor do we want our students to settle into this mentality.
Our role as shepherds is helping people love God and people, not just do all the right things. In order for this to happen our students must come to a point where they can say, “I believe in the God of the Bible and it doesn’t matter what anyone says about it.” Now, that’s faith.