It’s 11:00 AM. Do You Know Where Your College-Student Kids Are?

By Tom Gilson Published on May 11, 2017

Last Sunday our church served breakfast between the two morning services, and I happened to sit with a family of four I hadn’t met before. The older son had just graduated from high school. We talked about his plans to study biomedical engineering at a large state university starting next fall.

After a few minutes, he excused himself from the table, and I turned to his parents and said, “I used to be the vice president of a national campus ministry. If you don’t mind, I’d like to offer a word of advice to you.” They nodded, so I went on, “You know, the university in general has become rather hostile to Christianity.”

Yes, Universities Have Turned Hostile to Christianity

They were both very visibly surprised to hear that. But it ought to be common knowledge. Here’s a small sample from The Stream’s higher education archive:

These aren’t just isolated anecdotes. And these four examples don’t even touch on the sexual immorality that’s celebrated — not just tolerated — on college campuses. Higher education is a minefield. Christians are being spiritually dismembered there.

Teaching Falsehoods About the Faith

The old public service announcement on TV said, “It’s 11:00 pm. Do you know where your kids are?” Now it should ask, “It’s 11:00 am. Do you know where your college students are?” Very likely they’re in class being taught, “Jesus probably never really existed, or if he did, who knows, maybe he was on drugs?”

My daughter got exactly that “instruction” from a biology professor at Miami University last year. Biology. Not history, not New Testament. This prof should have stuck to her field; no actual historian would be caught dead saying that. Jesus’ existence isn’t in doubt among academics who know what they’re talking about, and the “drug” thing is nothing but evidence-free, biased — and therefore worthless — speculative nonsense. Still her words carried weight, since she was a professor, and professors know what they’re talking about, right?

Chances are that professor could get away with saying the same thing in the faculty lounge — provided no historian was there. This is the atmosphere on campus.

Parents’ Values Ripped Apart, at Parents’ Expense

A friend of mine put it perfectly over breakfast one morning. “If you wanted to create a way to take young people out of their homes, rip all their parents’ Christian values out of them, undermine and eventually destroy all their spiritual upbringing, and get the parents happily to pay for it, you couldn’t design a better answer than the University of Michigan.”

He picked Michigan because it was nearby. He could have named any other public university in the country, and even many nominally Catholic and Christian ones.

Being Wise With Your Kids’ College Experience

So what’s a parent to do?

Parents should wake up, for starters. You wouldn’t skimp on researching schools’ academics, extracurricular activities and financial aid. Why ignore the spiritual environment? Is it less important? Hardly. You can check it out by contacting a student pastor at a church near campus, or else a campus ministry there, possibly one connected to your denomination, such as Newman Centers and Focus for Catholics, or RUF for Reformed students, or campus ministries like Cru, InterVarsity or Ratio Christi. I’ll admit to being partial to Ratio Christi. It’s not as well known, but it’s the only nationwide ministry devoted to helping students understand reasons for the faith — and it’s the one where I once served as vice president.

A college student’s first two weeks could determine whether they set a course of Christian fellowship or freshman partying.

I’m not saying as a Christian you have to avoid public universities. Just make a fully informed decision about it, and be especially aware of the campus ministries at the school your child will attend. Students who get deeply involved in Christian fellowship tend to do well there.

My Advice: Get Them Off to a Good Start

Research shows the first two weeks on campus in particular can make all the difference. That’s where my advice to these parents last Sunday comes in. It’s late-stage advice: something simple to do when college is rushing up on you, and you haven’t done much other pre-college spiritual research and preparation.

If you’re in that stage, you already know that when you send your kids off to college, your role in their life will diminish. It should. They’ll be out and away from you — except for one thing. You want to make sure they start off on the right trajectory. The first two weeks could determine whether they set a course of Christian fellowship or freshman partying.

So before they go to school, help them find a church there, and work with them to make sure they’ve identified a campus ministry to attend, too. Then tell them it’s an requirement that they attend church the first two Sundays, and that they must also attend a solidly Christian on-campus fellowship the first two weeks. Tell them they need to prove to you they did that. (Remember, this is a research-based recommendation.)

Make Sure They Know You Mean It

That requirement only lasts two weeks. But make sure they know you’re serious about it. If they don’t do it, they’re not going to college at your expense.

That’s a strong statement. But parents have the right not to pay for their children’s lives in Christ to be disrupted and possibly damaged beyond recovery. So if the kids don’t get off to that good start during the first two weeks, your supply of funds will end right there. After that, they’re on their own. 

For parents who still have time, I would add this: do your research well. Choose the college you’re paying for very carefully. And above all, invest the time it takes to get your child ready.

Above all, if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle with loved ones going to college, please pray, pray and pray some more.

It’s that serious.


Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.

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  • Timothy Horton

    Universities Have Turned Hostile to Christianity

    No they haven’t. All that’s happened is due to social media the students are much more worldly and don’t put up with the bigotry and intolerance espoused by many Christian sects. Too bad for your religion the students refuse to be the mindless sheep your religion counts on.

    A professor tells a student he can’t read the Bible silently before class.

    It was cute how you “accidentally” forgot to tell the whole story. This particular student had already been reprimanded twice for disrupting the class with his religious tirades against the professor. In this third instance the student deliberately sat in the front row center of the class with his Bible just to be disruptive again and give a “middle finger” to the professor. That’s why the professor called in the other administrator.

    Can’t have facts spoiling your usual “All Christians are persecuted victims!!” whine now can we?

    • Paul

      I can hear you now screaming ‘homophobe!!’ if a disruptive homosexual student was reprimanded.

      In your view Christians can only be that at church while homosexuals must be free to express themselves everywhere and be validated by everyone. We see how you work.

      • Timothy Horton

        In your view Christians can only be that at church while homosexuals must be free to express themselves everywhere and be validated by everyone.

        I don’t know of any cases of LGBT folks standing up in the middle of a college class and disrupting the class by yelling at the professor. Can you please back up your claim? Or were you just lying for Jesus again?

        • Your disagreement with others’ opinions here, and the tone in which you express them, are both duly noted, Timothy.

        • Paul

          Actually I’ve personally witnessed it, but there was nothing official done about it.

          • Timothy Horton

            Sure you have.

          • Paul

            Predictable response

    • Thank you for registering your opinion, Timothy. I’ll regard it as “duly noted.”

    • For others commenting here, I don’t see any reason to interact with Timothy’s comment beyond what I’ve said already: “duly noted.” He has a way of turning threads into discussions about himself. I’m sure that’s satisfying to him, but it’s not the reason the rest of us read and enter into discussions here at The Stream.

      If you want to discuss the content of this article (and others that he visits), the best way to do that is to simply to acknowledge his opinion as “duly noted.” There’s no need to argue with him any longer. Just move on to whatever it is you came to talk about instead.

      • Autrey Windle

        I still think it’s kind and generous to urge Tim and others who employ his tactics to enjoy themselves by moving to France where they are appreciated.

      • m-nj

        Tom, I actually stopped even acknowledging his comment on any of my comments. It became clear he seems to find any way possible to drag the discussion to lowest common denominator, which for him seems to be christian/christianity bashing.

      • Timothy Horton

        I’ll accept your classic ad hominem argument as your admission you have no cogent response to the facts presented and points made. 🙂

        • Duly noted. I don’t feel the need to try to change your mind on it. Other readers are warmly invited to draw their own conclusions.

      • James Doyle

        Thanks yes I noticed that last night wasted and hour answering him back and forth so now he’s blocked. One other we anecdote about the guy is that this seems to be the only site he blogs on ( at least with that name ). Cant understand why Homosexual Atheists would hover round a very strong leaning Christian Site .Still got to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He most probably spends the rest of his blogging time going after those lovely Muslim folk and telling them how bad they are. Anyhow it was nice blogging with you Timothy so Cheerio and God Bless and keep you safe on those Muslim sites. And just a PS always keep the head when arguing with Muslims you may need it on the day you meet an ISIS guy.

        • Timothy Horton

          LOL! Another coward who can’t defend his religious bigotry so he covers his ears and goes LA! LA! LA!

          Keep safe inside your little echo chamber where the mean old world can’t get to you. Never mind the crowds pointing and laughing at you, not with you.

          • Paul

            Even more name calling…

          • … says the man who said I was using a “classic ad hominem argument.”

            No further comment except to ask you, Timothy, do you like living with that kind of inconsistency in your life?

            You need not answer here. It would be better for you and us if you just thought about it.

          • Timothy Horton

            Just curious Tom. Why did you omit so many important facts from your “student can’t read the Bible” story? You sure painted a false picture of what actually happened by deliberately twisting and leaving out the context and details. Someone who didn’t know might think you were being deliberately dishonest to push your “Christians are VICTIMS!” silly claims.

          • There’s a university probe underway that we can hope will settle this out: www*dot*thecollegefix*dot*com/post/32526/ . In the meantime, if you think that other information affects a student’s right to read a book before class, you’re welcome to think it.

          • Timothy Horton

            Which doesn’t explain why you chose to lie by omission about the event’s background context in the first place.

          • Your opinion on the topic is duly noted.

          • Timothy Horton

            As is your refusal to explain why you lied by omission.

          • Then we can agree that we’ve both expressed our opinions, and readers may draw their own conclusions.

  • Christian Cowboy

    Sounds like campuses have changed a lot since my college days.
    I have a lot of good memories at the Christian Student Union. Good friends and good fellowship.

    • Paul

      Christian Student Union? Wow, that would be protested these days by the homosexuals and cross dressers. Now it’s about folks other than pale skinned males being ‘proud’ of their identity (whatever that may be) and being angry about ‘white privilege’, demanding diversity while also being upset about cultural appropriation. Mind you that my perspective is biased by California.

      • Christian Cowboy

        It was a different time.

  • Ken Abbott

    For those looking for additional resources, Alex Chediak and J. Budziszewski have written several good books on preparing and equipping college-bound Christian youth. Also, one can digest and absorb Francis Schaeffer’s works; while not intended expressly for preparing young minds to enter the university milieu, they certainly serve the purpose well.

  • James Doyle

    At least in the US you still have some Christian Principles that get passed on to your youth over here it’s practically against the Law .One little story I was blogging with a guy an Atheist about 2 years ago who went on at length about the harm that Christinanity being taught in school could do . He then let slip that his kids went to a Catholic School. I of course pounced on this and asked him why. His reply was “well that’s the best school around and it’s where they will get the best education ” . The mind boggles but obviously not his.

    • Where are you located, James?

      • Autrey Windle

        I believe James is in England.

  • SophieA

    Tom, excellent advice and helpful resources. The most important job we Christian parents have is to pass our faith to our children. I pray that Christian parents consider with deepest gravity the inestimable value of their college students’ souls before sending them into a virtual den of lions that seek to destroy their Christian faith. Pray we must, but we must act wisely, too.

  • GPS Daddy

    The P’s, h’s, and D’s are the mark of a high-priest in our world today. Especially if those P’s, h’s, and D’s are in a science field. They give the person bearing such letters complete authority to speak on life.

    Unfortinuntly, the church has fallen into the same trap. We highly honor P’s, h’s, and D’s instead of honoring the depth at which someone is filled with the Spirit.

    • James Doyle

      Couldn’t agree more with you some of them are all Brains and absolutely no common sense. Their Egos seem to cloud their thought process till they have no mind of their own.
      They Troll through sites looking for statistics to prove their point not realiseing that the guy who they get their information from is as morally blind as themselves.

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