For many Christadelphian young people today, choosing which university or college to attend can be a very stressful and difficult decision to make. It is a decision that will affect the rest of one’s life. Many questions about this choice need to be asked.
- What factors should I consider when selecting a university?
- Where should I live while attending school?
- Who should I live with?
When answering these questions, the most important thing to consider is how your spiritual well being will be impacted by your choice. The people you surround yourself with and the activities you participate in while at school can either encourage you in your walk in the truth or they can make your walk a lot more difficult. In this Resource Kit we will discuss important choices such as living at home versus living away from home while attending university. We will also consider how living in isolation may not be the best thing for a young person to do. We will look at what scripture has to say on this topic. We will also look at some short-term strategies to help with selecting a school and some long-term resources for fostering spiritual growth while in school. These and other questions about how to choose a university will be answered in this resource kit.
What the Resource Hopes to Accomplish (Aims of the Resource)
For many Christadelphian young people, going to a university or college [we will use these terms interchangeably throughout the rest of this resource kit] can cause them to struggle with their faith or, worse yet, leave the truth. The influence of friends and secular studies (non-moral and evolution) can have a huge impact on a young person’s spiritual life. There are some negative influences at school that the individual cannot avoid. However, for many of the jobs in today’s society, a college degree is required, making it necessary that many young people face the challenge of choosing a university to attend if they want to get their desired job in the future.
A young person planning to attend a post-secondary program should not be discouraged that he/she will lose his faith by going to a university. Although we will likely be faced with negative influences at university, we can also chose not to act on these influences. One key theme of this resource kit is that spiritual growth at school is not passive. Young people need to be active when choosing their school, activities and friends; because doing so will have a direct influence on one’s spiritual life. There are many Christadelphians who are willing to help with your struggles. Many of these people are young people who have faced the same struggles and situations at university. It is the goal of this resource to answer typical questions about selecting and attending college and, hopefully, guide young people to ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’.
Question 1: Should the field of study matter in a young person’s decision when choosing a school?
Typically, when researching school programs, students will consider such factors as cost and length of the program, expected income of the future job, etc. The biggest factor in selecting a field of study is usually how much I will enjoy working in that field. Although this is important, another question should also be asked: how will my spiritual life be affected by this job? For example, will I need to work nights or Sundays, which may negatively impact my ability to attend ecclesial activities and make it harder for me to grow spiritually? How demanding will this job be? For example, will there be time during my day for any personal study or reading? There isn’t one right answer that works for everyone (consider how 1 Corinthians 12 compares us to different body parts—clearly, we are all meant to have diverse interests and jobs; we can not all be doctors or teachers). Yet you will need to consider how your field of study/job could foster or hinder your spiritual life. You may wisely choose one field over another because you recognize that one field/job may foster your spiritual growth more so than another you are considering.
We might consider here that when selecting a university, we shouldn’t limit our decision solely to those schools that are excellent in one academic area. Note this from the University of Virginia Primer on choosing a major:
|The relationship of college majors to career fields varies. Obviously, some career choices dictate that you choose a specific undergraduate major. If you want to be a nurse, you must major in nursing. Engineers major in engineering. Accountants major in accounting. There is no other way to be certified as a nurse, engineer, or accountant. However, most career fields don’t require a specific major, and people with specific majors don’t have to use them in ways most commonly expected. Most college majors don’t offer specific preparation for a single type of work. Instead, they educate you and help (along with your activities, work, etc.) to make up the personal package that can enable you to become anything you want to be. Majors don’t limit you to one type of work. In a recent survey of 3,000 U.Va. Arts and Sciences alumni, 70% of the respondents indicated that there is little connection between their undergraduate major and current career.|
Or this from another college publication:
|According to the Career Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, 70% of undergraduate students nationally change their majors at least once in the course of their undergraduate study. Some web sites, such as Northwestern and Virginia Tech, claim that students change their majors an average of 3 times!|
Question 2: Should someone participate in sports at school?
There really is nothing intrinsically wrong with playing sports at school. Two important factor should be noted though: how much time will it take up, and the relationships that will be created. Combining school, playing sports, working while in school (if necessary) and a spiritual life can be difficult. It may be better for you to opt not to play sports so you have more time for ecclesial activities. Another important factor is how much self control you have. In my personal experience, many of the athletes I went to university with were very into drinking. Drinking with the team was an expected activity after practice or games. If you participate in sports, your teammates may want to use the team as an excuse to go drinking. Going to the bars or drinking on campus is not an activity for a young Christadelphian. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Try your best to spend as much time with those who share your hope.
On-campus vs. off campus living
The author of this resource kit did not live on-campus during his time at university or college; he has gotten the first hand advice from some who has had this on-campus experience.
One person who did live on campus and looked back on their situation had this to say:
|“Living in residence at school is a bad idea. If I were to advise others, if you can stay at home for university — do it. Unless of course going away to university means you will be with other young people and a loving ecclesia. I think that staying at home would be a lot less stressful. You will always have your family there for a support system and there would be much less things going on around you to distract you.
For all of the young people who think they can live in residence and avoid all of the drugs/drinking and sex, you can’t. It is around you every single day you are living there. You may not be directly involved with it, but it is always around. No matter how good you think you can be, it is so easy to give into temptation. Telling yourself “just this one time” or “oh I will just have one or two drinks no big deal” is so easy to do. Living in residence, you want to fit in — you want to be apart of everything that is going on. To fit in, you have to at least attend the parties and surround yourself with all of the worldly things that are going on around you. As we all know, this is not a good thing to be doing. “Just this once” turns out to be really fun, and already you are planning another day when you will be doing the exact same things.”
Another experience of a brother who lived on Campus,
|“Living on campus was morally a huge challenge for me. I was young in faith, baptized less than a year. I wasn’t prepared for introduction to internet without boundaries, sexuality taken so loosely, and substance abuse constantly around me. I resisted alcohol for about two years, and then in my third year I got so drunk that I almost died. If not for a roommate taking notice I was choking and not waking up, I may have really hurt myself. The problem for me was that it was all very subtle. No one forces you to participate in their activities, and at first you don’t even want to participate. But it wears you down, and you gradually become someone you’re not and unfortunately you also become addicted to things it make take you years or decades to overcome. So while not all bad (I met some fascinating people) the negatives outweigh the positives.”|
Although there is no specific answer to this question, some of the advice in the rest of this resource kit will answer specific answers if moving away. Living at home during your college career is definitely a blessing (if it can be done). You may not have to worry about rent, immoral roommates or any other issues that could come up from moving away. Since many of us go into post-secondary education so early in life, it can be a big event; sometimes staying at home can be a huge help.
Moving away can also be very helpful in our spiritual lives. If the situation works, we may be able to move in with other fellow Christadelphians, and be able to learn to become more independent, and create close bonds with those with whom you live.
1. I will be fine, moving away from home to a school that has no local ecclesia
Response- Again the writer of this Kit has not experienced moving away from home during his school time, he has again gotten the advice of some who have had that experience.
Here is what one person had to say on the topic:
- An active ecclesia near by is key, especially when we are so young. Even though we may have a strong foundation from our family, without that weekly/daily reinforcement being surrounded by the world is going to takes its toll.
- We need to think about how close the ecclesia is. I was close enough to get to meeting on Sundays but I wasn’t close enough for weeknight classes. That’s four years without group Bible study which is hard to replace. No matter how much study and reading you might do on your own, it’s hard to replace the guidance and study provided by other brothers/sisters. A lot of Christadelphian knowledge is passed orally (lectures, group study, Bible school classes) and isn’t written in a book somewhere. Unless we’re around those people with that knowledge and tapping into it, our growth will be stunted in that aspect. For instance, while I was at college, the ecclesia did a study of Matthew and part of Exodus that I missed.
- We are social creatures. Eve was made because it was not good that man should be alone. If we don’t have others of like precious faith to fill that need, no matter what our resolve, eventually we’ll fill that gap with friends of the world. While there are moral people out there, they’re not going to strengthen our faith.
2. I can maintain a strong spiritual life while being fully involved with the negative influences of school.
Response- Trying to combine opposite things such as a life in Christ and the negative influences at school (drinking, partying, etc.) cannot be done. We are told in scripture (Matthew 6:24) that we cannot serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other; it’s not possible to do both at the same time. Also, let us remind ourselves of the great men of faith who have fallen to temptation. At this present time you may feel you are strong but there will be times when your faith will be weak. During those times we need to be around those that will help our walk in the truth. Samson, David, Solomon, Lot, Peter and many others fell to temptation. Let us learn from their examples.
Guidance from Scripture
Scripture can always be a source of guidance and help in times of need. The advice in the Bible is timeless. Its many situations span across the many time periods of history. Although no direct advice is giving about the issues involved with selecting a school, the Bible does give many other words that apply to the situations we might encounter while attending college. Here are just a few of these words of advice.
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Commentary: If we know there are particular sins that tempt us, we should get as far away from these temptations as possible. When choosing a school, there may be certain things that each individual person needs spiritually in order to survive during his or her university years. (For example, someone may need a Christadelphian roommate while someone else may need to know that someone from the local ecclesia is picking them up for Sunday School each Sunday at 9:30 a.m). These factors should be considered before making the final decision of where to go to school. Staying focused on the kingdom of God without any barriers is hard enough so why put up obstacles that will make our walk harder than it already is. We should be removing all of the “weights” that will drag us down.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.
Commentary: Many individuals (including one of the wisest people to ever live, Solomon) believe that we can’t wait until we are older to seek after God. Many times in scripture we are reminded that we need to become a servant of God at a young age (I Timothy 4:12-13 and Proverbs 22:6). We should not think that suddenly when we are finished with school that we will have a lot more time on our hands to learn about God’s plan for this earth and our lives. We need to be constantly reading our Bibles, spending time with other believers, and staying focused on the things of God.
Matt 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Commentary: The world that we are currently living in is becoming more and more like the days of Noah. Sin is becoming a socially-accepted activity in our society, and going to church, once a commonplace activity, is now quite rare. Going to school in the middle of all of this can be a very difficult thing to do. We are told to be harmless, like doves, but also to be wise as serpents, knowing which situations we cannot handle.
Luke 15:11-32 Prodigal Son…
Commentary: I believe from these passages we can see that the prodigal son wanted to have his “fun” in the world before he got serious about his life. One of the lessons which can be learned from this story is not to make the same mistake. We may wish to go off to College and experience a new lifestyle and meet new worldly friends, but is it worth it? The prodigal son thought the way of the world was the best way. Let us not make the mistake that he did.
One possible consequence of moving away from school would be putting yourself in a situation where there was no ecclesia that you could attend. This may be one of the worst situations a young Christadelphian could get into. Isolation has sometimes been referred to as spiritual suicide. This situation should be avoided at all costs.
Short-term Strategies and Immediate Assistance
- Prayer. Pray and ask God for guidance as you are selecting a university.
- Keep things in perspective. Since our spiritual growth should always be our first priority, you will need to consider how your choice of university will help you grow spiritually.
- Assess the situation. Will moving away from home cause a positive or negative influence in my spiritual life? As was discussed earlier, there are many positive and negative things about moving away from home for school. Each individual should access his or her situation to determine what will help him/her most in a walk in Christ—staying at home or moving away.
- Make sure there is an ecclesia nearby with which you can become involved. Write down a list of ecclesias near each university you are considering. Visit the local ecclesia(s) when you visit the university to ensure there is an ecclesia to which you will be committed to being a part. You may wish to consider if the ecclesia has mid-week Bible classes and CYC activities for you to attend. Also, are there opportunities for you to participate in Sunday meeting (teaching Sunday School, playing piano, presiding, exhorting, etc.)? Without the support of a local ecclesia, spiritual growth will be very difficult.
- Friends. When we encounter difficulties in our lives we usually go to our friends for help or advice. You should seek help and advice from your godly friends when making your school selection. In addition, you may want to consider who your friends—the people with whom you will socialize on a regular basis—are likely to be while attending school to ensure that you have a spiritual support system to help you in good times and challenging ones. There are several verses that apply to this point – should we list a few?
Getting Help from Family/Ecclesia
While attending university, your family and your ecclesia will likely be the two strongest support systems to ensure that you continue to grow spiritually despite being exposed to negative influences.
Ecclesia. The ecclesia that you go to during college should be a loving and warm-hearted ecclesia. You should be encouraged to and desire to come out to as many events as possible; your ecclesial should foster a personal desire to grow in your relationship with God. The ecclesial members should be people you feel comfortable with; people with whom you could discuss problems at school or anything else. If you have moved away for school and are going to a new ecclesia, we would hope that the members would be even more welcoming to you as a new member.
Family. Your family also needs to be a source of encouragement during your time at school. Practically speaking, parents often help their students with the costs of school; however, this may not always be an option. Regardless of parents’ ability to give financial support, they should also provide emotional and spiritual support. Parents of students who live at home while attending school should encourage their children to maintain a good mix between school and their spiritual life. If the student moves away from home, the parents should keep in contact with their children (but not TOO much!). Similar to the ecclesia, the family should also be people whom the children can go to with any difficult questions or situations that come up while attending school.
Finishing off high school and going into a College or University program can be a very stressful time in the life of a Christadelphian. Many hard decisions need to be made in what seems to be very short period of time.
Many others have also been through similar situations as you have. Ask an older young adult who has recently gone through school in your ecclesia for some advice. You may also be blessed to find someone in Christadelphia who works in the same field as you do to ask for specific advice on your future career path.