Week 6 Spirituality in College

This week’s topic is timely. Based on personal observations and conversations, many churches are struggling with keeping young adults involved or as members. My church is dealing with this now as they are trying to employ various types of programming to attract young people (ages 25-35). Last week, I attended a virtual church service that took place in Florida, and the topic was on the flight of young people from the church. The pastor gave a statistic of 80% of young people leaving the church after graduating high school. Their solution was to create a gap year program for Christian youth to participate in a plethora of activities ranging from missionary work to career workshops before going to college.

Yet, one of the reading’s from this week was that 8 in 10 students attended religious services in college or had discussions about religion (Astin & Astin, 2004). I’m curious about what the transition from high school to college means for youth who were engaged in the church. I have questions about whether students attend the same denomination or religious services as they did in youth or are they exploring. Student development theory and identity theory explore the stages of development that students go through in college. Many students are exploring their identity and that includes their spirituality or lack thereof.

I think Swarthmore, my alma mater, did a fantastic job promoting multi-faith programming and encouraging students to explore spirituality in whatever way they chose. I think Swarthmore’s Quaker heritage might have something to do with that. Nonetheless, many students including my friends explored different Christian denominations, atheism, and other forms of spirituality during their college years. I think it is vital that institutions encourage self-reflection and self-awareness as well as all the various forms of outlets for stress which includes spirituality. During orientation in my freshmen year at Swarthmore, all the incoming students gathered with candles in the arboretum. It was a wonderful opportunity for students regardless of their religious or spiritual background to fellowship with each other or quietly contemplate on their own. As colleges become more diverse, it is crucial that administrations pay attention to how they are providing support and nurturing spirituality in all of its forms.

Astin, A., & Astin, H. (2004). A National Study of College Students ‘Search for Meaning and Purpose. The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA.

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