Notes from College

Photo by Ilya Ilyukin

The NY Times ran a feature this weekend of reflections from college students and grads.  They received over 800 submissions and printed several essays and photos online here.  But I was fascinated by this reflection submitted by a George Fox student Dustin Junkert entitled “What My Faith in God Looks Like.”

What I love about this essay is the personal story it tells that echoes the story of so many youth group students we’ve all known who sail through our ministries as all-stars and graduate with everyone feeling great that they didn’t have sex or drink alcohol.  Dustin aptly writes of being one of those kids, “I grew up quietly and without thought.”  Ouch.  A harsh analysis of a church experience where “My youth pastor was one of my best friends.”

The connections between Dustin’s experience and students in our College Transition Project are starkly similar in some ways.  “I like my youth pastor” was consistently the top reason students were part of their high school youth ministries.  That’s nice and all, but where’s the depth?  Where’s the spiritual and cognitive substance that lasts beyond being best friends with your youth pastor?

Read this essay carefully, and maybe even use it this year with a group of seniors.  Note the deconstruction of faith during his freshman year, and the incredible moment of clarity when Dustin was finally able to let himself admit his doubt and discover that it wasn’t the same as losing faith.  It was the beginning of a whole new conversation with God.

Perhaps the Dustins in our ministries would love to begin to have those kinds of conversations before college.  What do you think?