A Question of Price versus Cost, part 5:
A Christian college education comes with a price. But research suggests that every penny of that price may be worth avoiding the cost of the alternatives.
by Steve Henderson, Ed.D.
Recommendations for Parents
1. WEIGH THE POTENTIAL RISKS TO YOUR CHILD'S FAITH ALONGSIDE THE FINANCIAL COSTS. There is too much at stake in your child's spiritual life to settle for less than the best place for him or her. Christian students need to grow spirituality as well as academically.
2. SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE RELIGIOUS SERVICE/CHURCH ATTENDANCE. Remember that this is the most important sign that a student's religious commitment is maturing. Find a way, beyond demanding to see each week's church bulletin, that will encourage attendance and involvement. While considering colleges, perhaps make church visits a part of your time. Help connect your student to a local fellowship of believers.
3. SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE INVOLVEMENT IN CAMPUS MINISTRIES. This is the best way to get your child involved with peers who will support the quest for spiritual growth in the college years. Many marriages result from relationships formed in college. Especially if your child is not attending a Christian college, involvement in a campus ministry may be the best way for your child to find an ideal son or daughter-in-law. So, if for no other reason, encourage involvement for the sake of your grandkids!
4. STAY INVOLVED WITH YOUR COLLEGE KIDS. To the extent possible, stay in touch with your college son or daughter in meaningful ways. Visit the college prior to your child's enrollment and during the college years. You will want to avoid becoming what Tom Wolfe, in his recent book I Am Charlotte Simmons, has described as a "helicopter parent," one who hovers over every aspect of the student's life—not a good plan. But you must stay involved, connected, and informed. So visit as often as reasonable. Make sure you meet your child's friends; perhaps invite them to your home on breaks and vacations.
5. DON'T GET SNOWED BY RHETORIC OR EXCUSES. Parents usually know when a child is "snowing" them. Do what you must to find the truth and then confront in love. Although this is a time of transition to full self-control and autonomy, there still must be clear accountability to the parents for many parts of life. Your child should understand your parental accountability principles before leaving for college so that when these principles are applied, they are not surprised. To put it most simply, you must be in a position to demand results, if necessary.
6. KEEP PRAYING—NO MATTER WHERE THEY ATTEND. No place is perfect. No parent can ever relax. By keeping involved and connected, you can do much to help your student get the most out of their college years. You have a tremendous role in helping your child become the adult God has designed him or her to be.
Recommendations for Pastors and Religious Leaders
1. Review the faith decline and drop-out rates for your church and/or denomination. What do these say about your youths' degree of preparation?
2. Focus more intentionally on preparing students for college life and the issues they are likely to face. Prepare for candid conversations and questions.
3. Provide continual support to students who are away at college.
4. Attract college students to your church.
5. Pray diligently for discernment before encouraging any student to attend a public institution, even as "salt and light." Becoming salt that loses its savior (or savor) or light that is buried under a bushel is a poor vision for any young person.
This article, which was published in the March 2006 issue of Christianity Today, is reprinted with permission.