Did you know that 70% of Christians that go to university will no longer continue to attend church after just one year? I didn’t until last summer when I was at Soul Survivor (which because I’m assuming very few of you will be aware is essentially a Christian youth camp – Yes we really can have a great time just like everybody else! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOJCTMDGejA ), anyway I digress.
Basically, there are loads of talks on pretty much any topic you can think of, and, having received confirmation of my place at Cardiff uni literally the day before I went (I applied for halls from the middle of a field on mobile data), I had resolved to go to as much studenty stuff as possible, so of course when I saw this title on the program, I knew I had to go and see what it was about.
Before I say more though, I should probably mention that I debated quite a lot as to whether I was going to post this. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to say what I want to say, and a lot of what I’m about to say is taken directly from the talk, but I think it’s important I share it because if I don’t nobody else will. If you want to know more, the talk is free and you can find it here: (http://soulsurvivor.com/talks/16c011-sink-swim-university-challenge/), or just leave a comment underneath and I’ll do my best to get back to you. I don’t think commenting can be done anonymously, but if you leave a comment then at the very least I will definitely see it.
As a Christian, you have about as much chance of your faith surviving university as you do of surviving an attack from a four metre crocodile, and THAT’s a scary statistic, but it’s sadly very easy to see just why this is the case. Moving to uni for the first time you are presented with an opportunity that is unique in life. In a very short space of time you are forced to define who you are, and who you are going to be. For the first time in your life, you have a completely blank slate to work with, in the vast majority of cases you’re in a completely new location, and you probably know next to nobody, and this means that you can change practically everything about yourself overnight. People you hang out with, clothes you wear, hobbies, interests, your faith, your sexuality. All of this can be reinvented, because nobody knows who you are, and so nobody has any expectations of who you are or who you should be.
Statistically speaking, if you are reading this and you identify as a Christian, chances are that you were either brought up in a Christian background, or that you weren’t, but that you came to faith through someone or something that was, and as a result you have been surrounded by other Christians for a significant amount of time. Because of this, it’s all too easy to become complacent, and to think that everything is going to be fine because your faith has stood strong in the past, but probably the biggest shock I had coming to university was how it actually feels to be in that position, to be able to completely rewrite everything about my life. For the first time ever I was no longer defined by labels other people had for me, and had to actively choose to associate myself with things (or not). In a situation where nobody knew about my faith, it would have been incredibly easy to have just not mentioned it to anybody and not had to have gone completely out of my comfort zone speaking to complete strangers in an attempt to find other Christians and a church to settle in. But for a visit from two people from home, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it, because for one thing I generally avoid social interaction like the plague, and for another thing, if I ever do choose to be sociable, it’s incredibly difficult to bring stuff like my faith up knowing that the vast majority of people probably think I’m crazy. With your old networks stripped away, there is immense pressure to conform, to be like everybody else, and choosing to actively associate yourself with your faith in itself is a huge and (from the point of view of the 70%) un-necessary risk. Why be something that people will hate you for and be out of your comfort zone when you could just give it up without ever telling anybody and have life be easy and comfortable?
Well, you have a faith for a reason right?
Regardless of what you believe, whatever religion you choose to associate with (or not), making connections with like minded people is incredibly important, and no matter how far out of your comfort zone it may take you, you need to actively go out and look for them. It’s not easy (take it from me, I’ve had more than a few funny looks from people when I tell them I’m a Christian puppeteer), but finding a church that I feel comfortable with has been by far the most helpful thing to me in terms of getting settled here. It took an absolutely huge effort, and my going against everything I’ve ever stood for socially, but I persevered, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I realise I’m not talking to everybody here, but I would encourage anyone with any kind of faith, Christian, other religions or even atheists, who are thinking about going to university, or even people who are currently at university, to be proactive in making new connections and to stay true to whatever it is you believe in. Even if everyone around you is determined to make you conform to their way of life, remember your roots and don’t give in, there are like minded people out there, you just have to go and find them!