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Campus Spiritual Life: Finding the Right Fit

Student studying the BibleChoosing a college is not only about the program or location or residence halls but also about the spiritual fit for your student. There is a striking difference in the spiritual opportunities and prominence of public faith expression between public universities and Christian college campuses. Even within Adventist campuses there are a variety of campus cultures and spiritual emphases offered.

Here are some questions to ask as you consider where to encourage your son or daughter to attend college:

The big picture

Most college campuses will have some opportunities for your student to connect spiritually. Even public universities have chaplains’ offices and Christian fellowship groups. (To learn more about how to connect with Adventist ministries on public college campuses, visit www.centerforcollegefaith.org.) The key is to prayerfully consider what is best for your student.

  1. Will she grow the most spiritually if she is surrounded by professors and classmates who are mostly unbelievers who she has everyday opportunities to share her faith with?
  2. Will he thrive in a more conservative, traditional environment? More liberal? Or somewhere in the middle?
  3. Will she blossom at a college or university which provides a strong spiritual support system and encourages her to grow toward, rather than away from, God?

Worship options

On public university campuses, diverse faith groups are typically represented by a broad variety of worship options and styles. On Adventist college and university campuses, although the faith affiliation is more similar, the options for participating in worship and faith-building experiences are still varied.

  1. What are the specific worship options available at each campus your student is considering? How many? How often? Where? Dress expectations? Format? College alone or combined with community? Involvement of students? Who plans?
  2. Is worship embedded in the campus culture or will your student have to seek it out on his own?
  3. Does the college encourage worship by keeping track of attendance? Or is it a less formal approach? Are some options required? Some voluntary?

Visit campus ministries

When you take a tour of campus, be sure to ask to visit the Campus Ministries office. You can learn a lot about the spiritual opportunities at a college by visiting this office.

  1. Who greets you? An enthusiastic student? A volunteer? A chaplain?
  2. Is the ministries office a place to hang out or a more structured environment?
  3. What about service opportunities? How many students participate in service activities each year? Is there an annual event? Is participation required or voluntary?
  4. Does volunteer service show on the student’s college transcript?
  5. What about student mission opportunities or other volunteer assignments lasting for a few weeks or up to a year?

Talk to current students

Current students can give you a fresh perspective on the spiritual barometer of a campus.

  1. Are students excited about the spiritual activities on campus or talking mostly about last weekend’s party?
  2. How easy is it to find friends with shared faith/values?
  3. Do students feel free to talk to teachers or work supervisors about spiritual matters? Who sets the spiritual tone for campus?
  4. What stands out most about the religion classes you have taken?

Talk to residence hall deans

Next to current students, residence hall deans probably know as much as anyone about what is really happening on a campus.

  1. Are there worship activities that take place in the residence hall?
  2. Are their expectations for residence hall worship attendance?
  3. Is there a chapel or quiet place for reflection or meditation in the residence hall?
  4. If you’re visiting an Adventist campus, are there Sabbath parameters that must be followed?

Additional resources

Below are some additional resources to explore as you consider which college or university will be the best spiritual fit for your child.

  1. Campus news stories. Are the stories shared through official campus media about student’s learning and growing in service to God? Or something else?
  2. Church staff. If the campus is located near a church, or if there is a church on campus, talk to the pastoral staff. What is the relationship with the school? What kind of support does the church offer college students? Are there opportunities for students to get involved in church activities or leadership?