How to Keep Your Faith and Thrive in College - Finds.Life.Church

How to Keep Your Faith and Thrive in College

by Tulio Huggins

The summer before I started college, my expectations of what college would be like as a Christ follower mainly came from Christian entertainment. I’d seen movies where the main character gets called out by his atheist teacher and demeaned in front of the class. I expected my teachers to have the same hatred for me and my faith. My university was a small, liberal-arts college in New Hampshire, where the majority of students were not Christian or even religious. Every student was sharp, and the professors were some of the best scholars in their fields.

Little 17-year-old Tulio was nervous, but also excited for the path ahead of him. 

But when I got to school, I realized a couple of things about my faith and the culture of my campus. My university wasn’t the same as the one I had seen in the movies. I didn’t have any militant professors who looked down on me because of my faith. Instead, most professors were respectful of my beliefs. The students were pretty respectful as well, and I was able to have many faith conversations with them during my time on campus. The culture of my school seemed to veer more towards religious “pluralism” than anything else. Everyone had a belief system, and everyone was respectful towards yours; it was a sort of “you-do-you” culture.

But as I started my first year, seeing the wide variety of beliefs practiced by other people created a crisis of faith inside of me. So many of my peers and professors were both intelligent and seemingly happy without Christianity; why was I so sure my faith was true?

Questions like these led me to realize how little I knew about my own faith—the history of what I believed, why I believed it, and why others should as well. I grew up attending church and chose to follow Jesus at a young age. I started to get more serious about my faith in high school, but I hadn’t really investigated my faith in regards to other beliefs.

But my crisis of faith wasn’t the end of my faith. There were a few things that helped my belief thrive as I navigated the highs and lows of college life and culture. 

1. I found a strong faith community.

I plugged into various Christian groups each year of school, from groups focused on spiritual growth to Christian academic groups. In each of these places, I found students who loved Jesus and were dedicated to figuring out why they believed what they believed. These students, as well as the spiritual advisors who supported us, gave me space to ask questions about my faith and helped me grow and be in community with others who wanted to follow Jesus as well. 

Finding friends who follow Jesus is one of the most important first steps you can take when you get to college. Most universities have Christian communities, so keep an eye out once you get to campus. Local churches might also have young adult small groups you can try out. Life.Church has young adult LifeGroups in different parts of the United States and throughout the world online; you can give those groups a look here.

2. I befriended non-Christians.

That might seem weird—aren’t you supposed to only be friends with other Christians? Nope! Finding friends with different beliefs and perspectives opened my eyes and helped me to understand why other people believe what they believe. One time, I attended a Shabbat dinner with my fraternity brothers, hosted by a Jewish student group on campus. During this dinner, I learned more about Judaism, something my friends believed in deeply—as well as ate some delicious food! Being willing to tend to these friendships allowed me to investigate my own beliefs and grow in my faith. 

Once you’re on campus, it probably won’t be difficult to find these kind of friendships. Try hanging out with your floor mates or joining a group on campus that isn’t faith-based. Don’t isolate yourself from the wider campus community by only staying in Christian spheres.

3. I read. A lot.

College is all about learning, and it’s important to dive deep into this pursuit of knowledge when it comes to your faith, as well. Yes, I read my Bible, but I also read books such as The Reason for God by Tim Keller and Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis, both of which talked about the reasonableness of my faith. I am deeply indebted to Keller and Lewis for the effect they’ve had on my spiritual journey. 

If you’d like to learn more about your faith, try asking friends or trusted spiritual leaders for books they’d recommend. As a student, you’ll have access to an entire college library, so take advantage of it! 

College can be tough, and navigating your faith at the same time can seem challenging. But thriving during this time is possible. With a strong support system, and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll see your faith grow in ways you would have never expected.