Can you prevent your college student from losing her religion?

Alane Zlotnicki

This year, I have both a college freshman and a college senior. They were raised in church, grew up in Sunday school, and are well acquainted with biblical truth. Now they are in college, and a world of new and different ideas is waiting for them.

Part of the college experience is meeting new people — people with different beliefs, backgrounds, and political persuasions. Just recently, my daughters have met lovely young ladies at school. They are polite, friendly transgender women, and my girls admire them greatly.

I want their perspectives to be broadened, but I also wonder if their faith is having any influence on their worldview. My daughters seem to almost dare me to say anything that even remotely questions their friends’ choices. The senior is questioning the validity of her views in light of all she’s being taught and the people she’s met in the last three years. The freshman is excited to see what else is out there.

We get 18 years to instill our values and our love for Jesus into our children. It never seems like enough, especially when they leave home and the strength of our influence is seriously curtailed. What do you do when your beloved child comes home and challenges the very roots of Christianity that you believe in so strongly?

Thankfully, we don’t have to sit idly by and simply hope for the best.

Four Ways to Accompany Your College Student Through Challenges to Their Faith

1. Accept their new friends.

Understand that your child will be meeting lots of people who are very different from you. Encourage them to find and become friends with other Christians, but remember many people they meet may not share your values, and young adults are often intrigued by people who believe differently than they do. Welcome their new friends into their lives, and, if possible, your home. The fastest way to alienate your child is to reject their new friends. So consider the example of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:36-37, and treat everyone as a potential friend, showing the same care and hospitality you would want others to show to your child.

2. Provide a listening ear.

Your child is learning about many different worldviews, religious systems, and social values. When they share their newfound knowledge with you, they may be challenging everything you’ve taught them. Don’t immediately start criticizing or lecturing them. Psalm 119:160 reminds us that all of God’s words are true and His righteous laws are eternal. Our children can best understand the truth of the Bible when they’ve compared it to other systems, but they are more likely to reject Christianity if they feel it is being forced upon them without considering the validity of other ideas.

3. Trust the foundation you’ve given them.

Don’t panic when your child explores other faiths or belief systems. They may quit attending church while at school, attend another denomination, or even try a different religion altogether. They will find that Jesus truly is the only person Who can fill the hunger they are trying to satisfy with other things. Trust in the foundations you gave them throughout their childhood. This is what it means to trust the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

4. Pray for them.

Continue to pray for your child, that God will give knowledge and wisdom to protect them from false ideas (Colossians 2:6-8).

Every truth and verse you’ve taught them is in their memory, available for the Holy Spirit to use to guide them as they navigate a confusing world (Psalm 119:11). Praying for your children instead of nagging them gives them the freedom to eventually return to church without having to swallow their pride.

Your relationship with your child will change as they mature, but making yourself available will help it become a friendship.

Your relationship with your child will change as they mature, but making yourself available to answer their questions and being a safe sounding board will go a long way toward creating a close friendship that can last a lifetime. My girls are questioning and exploring now, but I am trusting Jesus to guide them back to Himself as the only “way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

They know I don’t agree with everything they accept, but the lines of communication are open because they know I respect their opinions. Setting your child free in the world is a terrifying prospect, but they belong to God first, and He knows and will honor the love and the foundation you’ve given them.

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