What Do College Freshmen and Land Mines Have in Common?
When families consider a college for their student, a main consideration should be if there are opportunities for them to connect with a strong Biblically-based ministry that will help them mature in their faith. When looking at a new college town, many ministries will be found including churches, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, churches planted on campus, and a plethora of college-based ministries. As is the case with any organization, a little homework needs to be done before finding the right one for you. An easy way to find a church to attend while at college is to log onto http://bcmlife.net/ministry-directory/. Once there, click on Find a Church-based Ministry and enter your prospective college city and state. A list of churches will be displayed that are close to your chosen campus. Most of the churches listed have college ministries. Some not listed have not taken the time to get their information added to this database (it is a new database and search engine). If you are a Southern Baptist of Texas Convention affiliated church, and want your church added to this database, please send your church information and which campuses are in your ministry area to the SBTC. We will get your info added to the Texas database.
How important is it to have Christian friends as you begin college? How important is it to have Christian friends and mentors to help guide and offer wise counsel during the most formative years of one's life? Let me answer these questions with a simple riddle. How do you decrease your chances by 50% of stepping on a land mine while walking through a field full of land mines? You hop on one foot! College is full of land mines--atheist professors, new "best friends", world religions, girl/boyfriends, etc. Being involved in a Christian group increases the chances of collegian's faith to not just survive, but to thrive. The last thing we want is for our college freshmen to be wounded and have to hop around the rest of their spiritual life. We want them to be able to walk with both spiritual feet under them so they can launch into post-graduate life soaring on wings as eagles. After all, isn't our goal as parents that our children's faiths thrive? We certainly don't want our students faith to just barely exist or for them to get knocked off balance with every new idea that is presented to them, or worse yet, for them to be spiritually wounded, partially or mortally.
This leads to a very important question--Which Christian group do you encourage your new collegian to be involved?" At first there may seem to be many answers, but there is a best answer--The Church is the bride of Christ, so the church is the best option. Second, after the church, the second best option is Baptist organizations who are commissioned by the SBC to connect students to the local church. These go by many names but are best known as Baptist Collegiate Ministry or Baptist Student Ministry. They can be found also on the site above. Third, there are other Christian groups on campus. These are not connected or accountable to any church or group of churches. This is not to say they are bad, just they are not the Bride of Christ—the church. They are known as para-church ministries, some of which have wonderful leaders. Then, there are many other campus organizations, including frats, fraternities, student government, etc.
As one who has two children who have graduated from college, here is a little advice. Freshman collegians should only join a church or Baptist Campus Ministry. After their faith withstands their freshman year, they may be ready to venture out to join other groups. Let me emphasize "may", because some college sophomores are still not strong enough to stand on their own spiritual feet. Their new friends need to be solid Christians who can guide them through their freshman "mine field" year. To be sure, just as every church is not healthy; it goes without saying that every Baptist Collegiate Ministry is not healthy either. Collegiate freshmen need to be discerning (and get their parent's guidance) on which church and/or campus ministry to attend and eventually join.
When doing campus visits it will be worth it to stay near campus on Sunday and attend a church. Look on the site above, research churches, consider the options, and attend one that your student will enjoy. Once a college is selected if you will send your students contact information to the church, the church will contact your student to help get them involved and introduced to other freshmen and upperclassmen. The church will, although not in every case, visit your student on move-in day at their dorm, invite them to parties at the church, and give them a church-home away from home. Besides, who said you stop parenting when they go off to college!