A Pastor’s Reflections: College and Church
Chances are you will have high school students in your church who grow-up, graduate, and move away to go to college. When it comes time for this stage in life, there is an important thing that you should counsel these soon-to-be college students and their parents. There are some parents who believe that it is vital to send their children to a Christian college and that this course of action will benefit their child’s progress in sanctification. Regardless of where you send your child to college, there is a more fundamental move: ensure the student becomes a member of a local church of like faith and practice.
Each year many families weigh and consider colleges based upon a number of factors: cost, scholarship, academic reputation, field of study, etc. But how many ask the question, Is there a solid church near by that can feed and spiritually sustain my child during his time at college? I suspect that many parents seldom consider this question and it is likely a contributing factor as to why so many college students walk away from the faith never to return to church again.
If you’re weighing your options between two or three different schools, determine whether there is a good church in the area. Let the presence of a solid church be the most important factor in your decision. Why? No matter what, even if you’re talking about a Christian college, a school, no matter how dedicated to Christianity, is not the church. Christ has given the church the great commission, and Christ has gifted ministers to preach the word and administer the sacraments. No school is ever a replacement for the church and the means of grace. Why would you send your child off into the wilderness without food to sustain him?
Related to this is the question of whether the churches in the vicinity of your potential new college are of like faith and practice. There are many different types of churches out there, and just because it’s a building with a steeple and well-dressed people flowing in and out of it does not mean that they’re preaching the gospel. If you belong to a NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council) church, then seek out a NAPARC church. As parents, seek to nurture your children in the same faith in which you have raised them. Don’t send them to a church that will try to undermine or debunk the very faith that you have spent the last seventeen or eighteen years nurturing in your child.
Wherever you go to school, ensure you’re connected to a solid church that bears the three marks: preaching of the word, administration of the sacraments, and the administration of discipline. What will it profit you to gain a world of academic achievement, and the job of your choice, at the expense of your spiritual well being, and maybe even your soul?