Dr. Chuck Whittaker, Director of Spiritual Development
November 1, 2015
For years, many surveys have been gathered regarding Christian young people who come from evangelical churches and who turn from their faith while in colleges and universities. Are these studies results merely anecdotal or is there truth to their claim? Can a strong Christian school education make a difference to slow this alleged trend? This article and two additional articles will examine this issue. How important is it to have your student in a Christian High School as they prepare to step onto college campuses? Is the financial sacrifice really necessary? Is the public school really inadequate to prepare Christian young people to face the worldviews found in a place where the student is on their own, away from the influence of their parents and home church? Let's examine this topic.
In an article "Why Students Abandon Their Faith: Lessons From William Wilberforce" by Derek Melleby of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (2008); Derek says "that solid statistical data is hard to come by", and that even Barna survey's are somewhat anecdotal and not empirical in nature. Note the following additional quote from the article: "A few years ago George Barna conducted a study revealing that '65 percent of high school students stop attending church after they graduate.' This statistic helped to ignite the national conversation about college transition. Fill a room with 100 Christian students and 65 of them wouldn't be Christians after high school? That was hard to believe, but with anecdotal evidence so strong, this statistic was rarely questioned at first. Various denominations followed suit and estimated that between 65 percent and 94 percent of their high school students stopped attending church after high school as well. But like any statistical data, there are holes in the research. The Barna statistic, for example, was the result of a survey that included Christians as well as non-Christians. The denominational statistics were more anecdotal than scientific. The truth is we don't have concrete, scientifically verifiable, statistical data to determine the number of students who seem serious about faith in high school and walk away from it in college. But we do know that it happens and there is a growing concern something should be done about it." (Emphasis mine)
Derek Melleby then begins to quote one of the most influential men in the history of modern Western civilization, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce (focus of the film Amazing Grace) was a British Parliamentarian who lived about 200 years ago and reminds us that some challenges about children leaving home for college or career are timeless and affect all cultures. Wilberforce was a key player in the abolishing of the British Slave trade and slavery in general in the British Empire and the Christianization of a very decadent English culture at the time. He also was instrumental in starting child labor protection laws, humane societies, the treatment of women and many other cultural improvements. Wilberforce was riding the wave of the revivals that God used John Wesley to start years before.
Wilberforce is quoted from his timeless book Real Christianity regarding children who walk away from the faith on the transition from home into the world marketplace and universities: "Wilberforce perceptively describes the process by which young people walk away from the faith. His hypothetical scenario is not true for everyone who leaves the faith, but there are four timeless truths concerning those who walk away from the faith that can be drawn from his words. Being attentive to these areas can help us as we prepare students for the challenges ahead."
In these articles we will address two of the four issues presented by Wilberforce that are most relevant to this article and to these times.
- First, students who walk away from the faith succumb to temptations they haven't faced before.
- Second, students who walk away from the faith didn't learn to think.
The next article will address these two issues as they relate to the place of Christian High Schools and especially Dominion Christian School's approach to preparing students spiritually and academically for the onslaught of worldviews they will inevitably encounter in the marketplace or university.