For Christian youth, the transition from high school to college can be difficult. “The university is a seductive place. Professors are smart; parties are fun, for a season,” said Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity, in an interview with Youthworker magazine. According to a survey by The Barna Group, a Christian research firm, “sixty-one percent of today’s young adults…churched at one point in their teen years…are now…not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying.”
Incoming freshmen often make decisions concerning their involvement in Christian activities long before they arrive on campus and do not stop by the InterVarsity information table or go to the New Student Outreach picnic. To understand why these young people decide to forgo Christian community in college, the Mission America Coalition, an ongoing ministry of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, brought together a number of people to address the issue.
From this original meeting, the Youth Transition Network (YTN), led by Jeff Schadt, organized a coalition of churches, denominations, and youth and college ministries to help Christian youth make the transition between high school and college.
YTN is working to help Christians continue their commitment to Christian community as they begin their college career. The ministry has a number of publications and DVDs available to help pastors, youth pastors, and parents prepare students to live as Christians after high school. YTN is also preparing resources to help college ministries like InterVarsity connect with these students when they arrive on campus.
The Barna study offers some encouragement to InterVarsity and YTN as they work together to help students find Christian community. Many young people say if they “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of the local church.” Though young adults may not be interested in church, they will consider finding Christian community in the local chapter of InterVarsity, which then encourages them to be involved in the local church.
An additional piece of data from the Barna study offers one practical solution for relating to young adults. “There was one area in which the spiritual activities of twentysomethings outpaced their predecessors: visiting faith-based websites.”
Building on this information, YTN has developed an interactive website, http://www.liveabove.com/, where students can go to find a Christian community on their campus. Eventually, the local InterVarsity chapter will be able to upload information about meetings, post chapter members’ blogs, and submit photos for a rotating graphic display on the website dedicated to that chapter.
Thousands of former high school youth group members will be arriving on campus this fall. InterVarsity will continue to explore the partnership with YTN, developing resources to bring these college freshmen into Christian fellowship.