Two books from this fall. You Lost Me and Lost in Transition, bluntly set out some broad areas which congregations have failed to address. Many of the Emerging Adults we see on campus have not been adequately prepared for college by their faith communities. So as a service to our students and to the Gospel (and to the Church), at least some of our attention should be on how we could be addressing these issues. Consider these a Check List for Remedial Christianity.
1. Equipping students to thoughtfully evaluate culture. Perhaps a quarter of the church-going teens arrive at college feeling that churches seem overprotective and that Christianity demonizes the culture outside the church. How can we help them see that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and infusing culture? Can they watch a movie or hear a song and sense the underlying theology? This goes hand-in-hand with some basic biblical literacy. Students have learned some of the stories, but they have never learned how the stories fit together.
2. De-mystifying Science. Thirty percent feel that churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in. Can we help them integrate science with faith in a sophisticated way? Can we foster conversations with scientists and students? Can we find ways to connect with science majors especially?
3. Addressing sexuality and meaning. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic and judgmental. How can we have programs and conversations about a holistic and realistic ethic of emotional and physical intimacy? How can we be at least as specific about emotional relationships as the culture is about physical ones?
4. Nurturing Interfaith Literacy. Thirty percent report that they think churches are afraid of other faiths. They have grown up with tolerance and acceptance, but at the cost of ignoring real differences. Can we find ways to have them overhear substantive and respectful interfaith dialogue? Can we help them teach them how to listen without fear and to identify and acknowledge differences without the need for forces and premature closure?
5. Critiquing the Consumer Mentality and Lifestyle. The dark side of consumerism is reflected in alcohol and physical intimacy as well as career choices. Where can they get information and specific help in evaluating their economic choices?
The last two major areas are ones which most Presbyterian chaplaincies already have strong histories. How can we make them more accessible to our students?
6. Raising up and celebrating doubts. While some congregations like to think that they were open to doubts, the students felt as if the church treated their doubts as trivial.
7. Nurturing the broader and deeper notion of call. A quarter of the students who were involved as teens in church say that that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests.” Can we find ways to have students who are thinking about careers be in real conversations with older adults who are in those careers? Can we develop venues for students to talk about call without initially scaring them off with “religious” talk?
I hope you find ways to talk with congregational leaders about what topics they need to be covering, and to consider remedial Christianity as a recurring topic for your campus programming.