I remember being at a youth conference in high school, and the speaker of the evening Jason French had all of us in the room stand. I believe this was in Adrian, Michigan. Now when I say all of us, I mean there were at least six hundred students in that room, plus youth leaders and ministers. This was a large amount of people.
He was talking about faith, and I don't remember his exact point at the time, but i remember distinctly this example. He had us sit back down, section by section, until only a quarter of us were standing still. Then he told us in all earnestness that this was the amount of us who would statistically still be believers after college...
Three out of four students leave their faith in college. The numbers may vary by region, or be skewed by school. But for the most part I believe these numbers are accurate. Of the first four student leaders in my youth group I was the only one that didn't leave the church at some point.
It's very lonley being in that situation, following a faith when your peers fall away, combatting the attitude that living in the world and doing all the things that everyone else does is "not a big deal" yet still important enough that it should be pursued.
The theory I've heard most often as to why we lose so many at this age is because we aren't properly equipping them as teens or children to stay grounded in the faith. We aren't teaching them the right verses, or the right answers to give when someone asks them or something. We take it as a personal failure onto ourselves.
Then others say that college age people are for the first time "thinking for themselves," and therefore are experimenting and cultivating different avenues of thought and that is what takes them away.
However I have another idea in my mind as to what it is, and its not dissimilar from these notions, but is slightly different in that it isn't a "college aged" problem, its a people problem.
It's not about freedom, or preparedness. It's about control.
What caused me to think this is something else I was thinking about in my own life. I'm feeling frustrated at the moment. I feel like I'm not serving adequately or enough or something. When looking over my life and asking "what is it that has made living about me more than about others?" I figured out that before when I was in high school I was completely reliant upon my parents and therefore didn't have to worry about myself, how i ate, or how i got what i needed. Trusting my entire existence to my parents was natural and easy, and since I didn't have to worry about the things that I needed, I could put my attentions onto what others' needed.
When you get to college age, you're suddenly responsible for yourself in ways you haven't been before. Obviously some moreso than others, but the every day needs you always had which were pushed to the back of your mind are pulled back into the front of your mind and you realize "I can't do this for soandso, I've got things to do."
I genuinly don't think its the freedom thing or the equipping thing. Its the responsibility thing.
And ultimately, this in itself is a failure in faith, because we should be trusting our entire existence upon Gods provision. It is in doing this that we free our hands to do his work. Obviously this is easier said than done, but that is just another trick of the world when you think about it. We're tricked into believing that it is a selfish thing to not take care of our own needs, when really this is the very thing that God instructs us to do, meanwhile also instructing us to take care of each other.
The one thing I've noticed in common with anyone who has walked away from the church is that they made choices indicating they were living for themselves and no one else, and the world was justifying that choice.
It's not just the big things like food and clothing and service its the little things too. Things like being slow to anger, (which his actually a big one to me) asking others how they're doing and meaning it, or planning your life around your ministry, not your ministry around your life.
I think college kids forget that there is someone taking care of them.