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High School & College Faith

My friend Noah is writing a book about transitioning your faith as you graduate from high school to college, called Face to Faith (you should go check out the website… he is posting blogs related to the book, and the best comments will be incorporated into the book). It got me to thinking about my personal transition from high school to college.

I’ve read the statistics: Sticky Faith, the National Study on Youth and Religion, Barna, and others. For me, there were two main things that seemed to make it a seamless transition from high school to college:

  • The expectation that Sunday was a day for church.
  • Getting involved in ministry.

Sunday is a Day for Church

This isn’t a very theologically or missionally rich idea, but I think for me it really kept me connected to the Body in college. Growing up, Sunday was a day for church. We rarely missed church. It wasn’t even really a question in my house growing up. There wasn’t sleeping in, there wasn’t going out to the lake, there wasn’t spending the night at friends’ houses and missing church (if we did spend the night on a Saturday, we either went with our friends to church or my parents picked me up Sunday morning).

It sounds a bit legalistic, but it wasn’t for me. It was an expectation. And I just grew to feel like Sunday was a day when I met with other believers, studied the scriptures, and worshiped. So, when I got to college, the most natural thing for me to do on Sunday morning was to find a church.

Get Involved in Ministry

During freshman orientation, an upperclassman shared with me about a youth ministry she was involved in with a small local church in a low-income town nearby. She asked if I’d be interested in being a part of the ministry, and being a youth ministry major I jumped at it. So, that first Sunday, I found myself in a nearby town of about three hundred in a tiny Southern Baptist church with a preacher who preached only from the King James Bible. On Wednesday nights, about seven other high school students and I helped out with their youth ministry program. I thought it made sense to attend worship there on Sundays, so I did.

It wasn’t a church I “liked”. It wasn’t a church that I would have sought out. It wasn’t a church that fit my mold or fed my needs. But it was a church where I was an important part of their ministry. I knew the kids, I knew the youth minister, and I thought that if I was going to be involved on Wednesday nights I needed to be involved on Sunday mornings.

Because of these two main factors, Sunday stayed a day of worship while I was in college. They say the first few weekends of a college student’s life will determine their churchgoing habits throughout college. If you want them to hit the ground running, then getting in a habit or weekly worship during high school and committing yourself to ministry were great starting points for me.

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mattcleaver@churchleaders.com'
In 2005 Matt was on his internship as a youth ministry major at John Brown University when he read Soul Searching. That book, combined with some serious theological grappling that had been going on the previous 2 years, convicted him to do anything I could to buck the status quo of youth ministry. Matt believes our teens are too important to us to keep letting them down. So, he graduated from JBU in 2006 and have been in full-time ministry at Hope Lutheran Church. In 2008 he started working (slowly) on a M.A. in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary.