A recently released survey from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship revealed how the events of 2020 — the pandemic, racial turmoil, a divisive election — have affected Christian college students, and it gives us a glimpse into what the future of the Church could look like.
The study surveyed Christian students from over 100 secular college campuses about their thoughts on how the pandemic affected their life, the current state of their faith, what they need from the Church and more. To sum everything up, Christian college students have hope for the future of their faith but have immediate needs the Church can, and should, address.
Least surprising of all, overall health in college students has declined due to limited social interaction and a lack of community because of the pandemic. Fifty-eight percent of students claimed loneliness and isolation as one of the greatest challenges they have faced over the past year, and 47 percent said it has affected their mental and physical health. The overwhelming majority of students surveyed said church involvement is important to them, so the limited fellowship over the last year has had a major impact on their spiritual health. As churches are regaining some sense of normalcy, members should be particularly sensitive to college students who need additional help and affirmation.
Students also said one of the biggest aides they need right now is more resources on how to understand Scripture and how to pray. Students are ready and willing to learn more about God and interact with Him. They are primed for truth, but they need people who will walk alongside them and guide them to that truth. Mentorship and discipleship are both key resources students want and need. Older church members should intentionally seek out students who need wisdom and guidance.
The survey also revealed what Christian college students think is the most important issue facing the world right now: racial justice. Thirty-nine percent of students believe racial justice was the biggest issue, which isn’t totally surprising considering students in college right now are part of the most racially and ethnically diverse generation and have just played a major role in America’s racial reckoning. Other issues students want to address include climate change; foster care, adoption or orphan care; abortion; religious tolerance/freedom; police/criminal justice reform; global poverty; and more. As Gen Zers step into leadership roles, churches should be prepared to address these issues (if they haven’t already).
“Emerging from the past year of racial unrest, we’re seeing how the social issues that our nation reckons with are also at the forefront of our students’ minds,” said Greg Jao, Chief Communications Officer at InterVarsity. “As a campus ministry, it’s crucial for us to help students navigate both these issues and how to live out their faith from a Biblical perspective in real time on college campuses.”
Overall, the survey didn’t have any alarming or shocking revelations, but it does present a good challenge for older Christians. After making it through a difficult pandemic while balancing school, work, relationships and their faith, Christian college students have a strong desire for their faith to grow. They want to gain knowledge and wisdom, but they need people who are willing to walk alongside them as they become leaders in the Church.