By Rod Pauls

Learning To Drive Your Faith on Your Own

I remember when I first went to college. My parents and I loaded up our car with all of my earthly possessions and we made the two-and-a half-hour trek to my college campus. My parents took me to my dorm, helped me unload my stuff, took me out to dinner, and then said a tearful good-bye. 

I remember being excited to experience everything that university life had to offer. I recall thinking that my life choices were really up to me from now on. 

As you begin your college career, you may find yourself facing some tension with your parents. Perhaps they are believers or perhaps they are not believers at all. 

InterVarsity’s emphasis on evangelism or intense discipleship or global missions may seem like something really “out there” and not to be trusted to parents who are not familiar with InterVarsity.

How can you honor your parents as well as learn to navigate (or 'drive') your faith on your own?

Recognize Your Parents Are Not Your Enemies

Your parents want what is best for you. They have a right to be concerned about anything that seems strange or potentially harmful. Every year college students are injured, or even die, from things like: binge drinking, fraternity or sorority hazing, drug overdoses, pranks that go awry, and so on. If you recognize that your parents are rightfully concerned for your safety, you will lay a good foundation for helping them understand your choices.

Be open and honest

Let your mom and dad know that you are getting involved with an evangelical Christian ministry and that you want them to feel free to ask questions about the group. Provide them with web-site information so that they can see what the group or ministry is all about. Invite them to come to a meeting. Set up a meeting with your staff worker so that they can ask questions.

Avoid defensiveness

When you tell your parents that you want to attend a missions conference like Urbana Student Missions Conference—which is five days during Christmas —they may object. When you tell your parents that you would like to take six weeks during your summer to go on a InterVarsity Global Project, be aware that this might seem strange and dangerous. Try to answer their questions, address their concerns, and help them see how God is working in your life through these events. 

Talk About Your Choices In Positive Ways

Try to avoid drawing comparison between your campus fellowship and your parent’s church. Learn how to say things like, “This group is really helping me to get more out of my study of the Bible” or “I’m really excited to go to this conference because I think it will help me learn so much more about God.” 

Your Choices Will Shape You

You, not your parents, will have to make the choices that shape your character and help you grow in your faith. Your expression of the Christian faith may be different from your parents. You may use different language to describe your walk with God. You may learn different spiritual disciplines to help you grow. Your decisions about what to believe and how to live out your faith may be different from theirs. And that’s okay.

Honor Your Parents

God calls us to honor our parents, to love them wherever they are at on their faith journey. They are learning and growing and discovering, just as you are. They have life experiences (just as unique as yours), which have shaped them in ways that you may not understand yet. Ask your parents about their faith. Ask them to share stories. Honor them by listening and modeling humility.

Rod Pauls lives in Albuquerque, NM with his wife Andrea and his three year old daughter Mattea. He is an avid connoisseur of breakfast burritos, green chile cheeseburgers and mint chocolate chip milkshakes. He can often be found reading books to his “bigger girl” or telling her stories of times when he was in “danger.”

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