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Making Good Transitions
From High School to College
Saying Connected to the Body of Christ
The vision and mission of New Covenant Academy is to prepare students to academically and spiritually succeed in a post-secondary world. In order to accomplish such a goal, the high school Bible department has begun focusing on students’ college transitions. Statistics have shown that between 40-60% of Christian students who go on to college become inactive in their faith during those years. Moreover, 33% of those who become inactive in their Christian faith are shown to never dawn the door of a church again. This problem of inactive faith during a graduate’s college years can be seen in the following scenario for most Christian students.
Traditional preparations for college often includes:
Parents, churches, and schools prepare to send their student off to college. In doing so, the student is put through rigorous college preparation courses in school, becomes part of extra-curricular activities to promote his or her diversity, and is put through college planning seminars. Colleges are then examined and visited. Degree options, major and minors, are laid out and chosen. Applications for financial aid and scholarships are sent filled out and sent off. Everything is now set-up and planned out. The student knows where they want to attend, what degree he or she wants, and how to pay for it.
From all the research I have conducted, this is the typical scenario for both Christian and non-Christian students. So, what is the difference between the Christian and non-Christian scenario? Nothing! That is the problem. At what point are Christian parents, teachers, mentors, or pastors going to respond, “Great job planning for college! Now where do you plan on going to church? What churches did you visit while visiting college campuses? How do you plan on growing spiritually while you are growing academically?” This is what New Covenant Academy is now doing different.
What NCA Bible Department is doing to reduce the church attrition rate
Unlike the multitude of Christian schools around the country that I have contacted during my research, New Covenant Academy has begun focusing on this college transition as a fulfillment of its vision and mission statements. During Bible class, students are given the research assignment to locate churches in the area of their choice colleges and look up campus ministries as found on each campus. Contact with pastors and campus ministers is made through email or by phone. A spiritual plan is developed by each senior to help students to be proactive when they reach their college campus rather than reactive. College campus ministers are asked to attend classes for a time of Q&A to help them navigate the uncharted waters of the freshman college campus. The hopes of such a curriculum adjustment is to drastically reduce the 40-60% church attrition rate to something much lower.
Source: "Christian School Comment" a resource of NCA's member institution, Association of Christian Schools International:
It is fundamental to our children’s discipleship process that we understand the difference between the road to Damascus and the road to the agora. What is Damascus and what is the agora? Damascus represents conversion. Paul was converted while on the road to Damascus. In today’s context, this represents a child’s personal decision to follow Christ. This decision is something we as parents earnestly and consistently pray for from the very moment of our child’s birth. Conversion is the first step toward the goal.
I’ve been honored to pray with each of my four sons during their personal conversions to Christ. My road to Damascus was different than their roads, but conversion was the same outcome.
The road to the agora is different. Agora means “the marketplace”; specifically, the meeting place for the ancient Greeks. At this meeting place business was conducted, issues were discussed and debated, and ideology of the culture formed and dispersed. Within the context of the importance of developing our children’s worldview, the agora represents the university and beyond to the epicenters of culture-forming entities—Hollywood, Wall Street, Washington, D.C., and the like.
The road to Damascus is part one of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) and the prerequisite to making disciples. However, part two of Jesus’ charge to make disciples is the teaching and training element—preparing for the agora. I believe the Christian community has done an exceptional job at the evangelistic part of the Great Commission. These efforts should never decrease—if anything, they should increase. However, the strategic effort of teaching, training, and preparing our children for the agora is the most neglected aspect of discipleship for parents and the church. Research supports this claim. Too many of our children are walking away from the church. The agora is eating them up and spitting them out (Astin 2004; Gunnoe and Moore 2002).
It is vital to note that the discipleship of our children continues during their college years and even beyond. I call this the threephase cycle of transmitting our faith to the next generation. The first phase is marked by the 6,570-day period from birth to high school diploma (Flor and Knapp 2001). The second phase is the 1,500-day period during college. The third phase is life—work, marriage, and parenting. Of course, this is a simplified model of a much more complex array of spiritual, emotional, and physical maturity points. Grasping these three phases and the specific training needs during each one will help us get our arms around an ongoing discipleship plan. The key deliverable is a child whose spiritual maturity trajectory is constantly getting deeper. Their spiritual root system is gaining strength—they are ready for the agora (Land 2008)!
Parents are leading a massive movement in the country to embrace Deuteronomy 6:7–8 and take responsibility for their children’s training and discipleship. They are heeding the warning signs of the secular drift in our youth culture (Pearcey 2004). The road to the agora will require churches, parents, and Christian schools to continue to adapt and change their discipleship paradigms (Spears 2005). Christian school parents, you are on the front end of this movement, and I encourage you to continue your commitment to the biblical and transcendent cause of kingdom education.
References Astin, A. W. 2004. The spiritual life of college students: A national study of college students’ search for meaning and purpose. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA. Flor, D. L., and N. F. Knapp. 2001. “Transmission and transaction: Predicting adolescents’ internalization of parental religious values.” Journal of Family Psychology, 627–645. Gunnoe, M. L., and K. A. Moore. 2002. “Predictors of religiosity among youth aged 17–22: A longitudinal study of the national survey of children.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 613–622. Land, R. 2008. The state of the culture: We need a revival! Retrieved October 19, 2008, from Faith and Family Values(2): http://faithandfamily.com/documents/pdf/ magazine/2008-2.pdf Pearcey, N. R. 2004. Total truth: Liberating Christianity from its cultural captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. Spears, W. D. 2005. Discovering the catalysts for growing true disciples in an emerging postmodern culture. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY.