When it came time to visit colleges, Samuel Moody visited a Christian college and was turned away. Growing up with Christian parents and attending a private Christian school for his entire school career, he had war scars. “In faith-based private education, there is a fine line between mentoring disciples and indoctrinating sheep, and a lot depends on who is guiding the student. . .The majority of teachers I have had [who] taught me that my Bible curriculum was specifically the wrong kind,” Moody said. “They tried to indoctrinate me. And I had a lot of Bible knowledge, but I didn’t understand Jesus on a personal level, and that’s a big problem. Without his personal conviction to find truth in the scriptures and the strong foundation of beliefs on which his mother raised him, Moody might have become like one of the many other students who leave the faith after graduating. “There’s a reason a lot of people who grew up in the church leave when they grow up. It is because of bad leadership,” he claimed.
Nick Blevins, team leader of children and students at Community Christian Church in Nottingham, Maryland, provides data on youth involvement in the church in his story “Statistics on Youth Leaving the Church and Why.” . According to one of his sources, a 2011 study by BARNA on young people leaving Christianity, approximately 11% of young Christians will leave the Christian faith, 20% will disconnect from their church because of frustrations with the “culture of ‘church’, 40% still call themselves Christians but will not go to church and only 30% will remain involved. These figures illuminate the harsh reality that many Christian educational institutions face. The mere fact that children are born into a Christian home does not guarantee their salvation, especially if they have been led astray or hurt by poor leaders, as Moody described it.
“Many things [teachers] said when measured with the things they did, it didn’t add up,” Moody said. “They learned to be with open arms and turn around and kick out a student who, you know, had sex outside of marriage and got pregnant. Now why would you want to expel a student who made a mistake? Why would you give them a bad taste and leave them rejected instead of disciplining them and helping them to become a better person from their experience? Why can’t we do what God does and take a bad thing and make it good? They were more concerned with their image than their morality.
Small private primary schools are not the only problem; similarly, some Christian universities fuel the problem. Laura Basch, a 2019 John Brown University alumnus, said her frustration with “people living really duplicated lives at JBU”. These lifestyles affected Basch’s perspective on Christianity. “It really turned me away from Christianity at the time,” she said. Basch identified her frustration with the people around her as a source of anger towards God. It might have made her lose her faith, but Basch clung to her beliefs. “It’s been a lot better since then. I’m more established in the church, in leadership roles,” she said.
If it hadn’t been for factors outside of these Christian institutions, Basch and Moody might have joined those who are losing faith because teachers have let them down. When faith becomes a policy rather than a personal belief, it promotes legalism and a “Christian” culture, which only stiffens the heart and breeds rebellion. Basch expressed concern that when a student spends four years of their young adult life being told what to say, do, and like, they are unprepared for graduation. She explained, “Something that comes after college that no one expects is to build your relationships without anyone telling you what to do. So many people are so lonely after college. Colleges should enable each individual to build their own community instead of providing a community for them. Basch encourages students to find mentors, leaders, community, and connections outside of college. She said many local churches have people eager to make disciples and serve students. Local community outreach and missionary work are other great opportunities to expand beyond a college bubble.
There are several good reasons why people choose to attend schools that offer faith-based education. However, it should not be assumed that faith will inherently grow through such teaching. In fact, personal testimonials and statistical data indicate otherwise. Basch’s final piece of advice was twofold, telling students: “Detach [from] your college, and see it for what it is, a place of broken people… Untie the deeds of JBU [from] the acts of God and Jesus.
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