As someone who works in the field of Christian Apologetics, I often hear the sad stories of students who, after a semester or two of college, declare themselves to be Atheists or Agnostics. Many Christian parents are wondering how to navigate these difficult waters with their young adults. I want to introduce to you, Dave Warn, and Collegiate Impact, a Christian campus ministry that is here to help. — Israel Wayne
Israel Wayne: How did you develop an interest in serving college students?
Dave Warn: I became a follower of Jesus during my second year of college. I was lost and felt empty without purpose in life when someone shared the gospel with me. After I came to faith I began to realize that I had a growing desire to help college students find the Lord and grow in their faith, just like someone had helped me. I’ve never regretted the decision to serve Christ full-time in the world of higher education.
Israel Wayne: What is the overall vision / mission for Collegiate Impact?
Dave Warn: Collegiate Impact exists to see hearts ignited in their love for Christ and campuses transformed. Once believers are revived, experiencing the “streams of living water” that Jesus promised, they become a potent force on campus. Then, as these believers seek God together, a greater move of the Spirit is possible and this is how an entire campus can be influenced. While ministering at the University of Wisconsin, we experienced the Lord move in this way and fruit was dramatic.
Israel Wayne: What are some of the greatest dangers that Christian students face on a college campus?
Dave Warn: The greatest danger on many campuses is to adopt the prevailing campus mindset. On a Christian college there may be a mindset of apathy toward serving the Lord wholeheartedly. The campus atmosphere is more about hanging out with friends and getting good grades. On a public university the campus mindset usually does not include God so it is tempting to completely leave Jesus out of the conversation. Of course there are further implications of adopting the prevailing mindset on either Christian and secular schools such as sexual promiscuity, worldliness, and pride.
Israel Wayne: How can parents help their students to be prepared for what they will face once they enter higher education?
Dave Warn: First, parents need to assess the youth ministry their son or daughter is involved in at church. There are two fundamental questions that need to be asked about their current youth group experience. First, has the hook-up culture of the local public schools infiltrated the ministry? If so, find or create another alternative for your son or daughter. If the church leadership asks you why Johnny and Suzy are no longer part of the youth group, tell them what you see. Second ask yourself, “Are the highlights of this youth group the annual ski trip and movie nights, or are these high school students coming to faith in Christ, being challenged in their faith, and getting their questions answered?” If not, dad and mom need to step things up at home and be sure that these dynamics are taking place. Nothing will be more important as they head off to college.
Second, parents need to sit down and talk to their son or daughter about their goals in college. This discussion should include both academic and Christian growth goals. If your youngster is headed off to a public university, it is important to connect him or her with a strong campus ministry even before their first semester begins. While many Christian ministries can be located on the list of student organizations, it can also be helpful to research some of the national ministries on the internet in advance such as Cru, InterVarsity, The Navigators, and Chi Alpha.
Israel Wayne: What do you encourage a student to do once he or she arrives on a college campus?
Dave Warn: First, read your Bible and pray every day. Second, find transparent Christian fellowship – that is a group of people who will be honest about their own Christian journey and encourage you in your faith multiple times a week. Third, don’t think defensively (i.e., how will I hold onto my faith?), but think offensively. Jesus wants to expand his kingdom and he wants to use you to do it. Rather than thinking my professor and classmates know so much, realize that most of them have never read the Bible through one time and have never heard a reasonable explanation of the faith. Each Christian student needs to walk across campus humbly, but also realizing the campus is covered in darkness and God has given them the flashlight.
Israel Wayne: What are your thoughts about Christian college campuses? Is it safe to assume that a Christian school will always be a healthy environment?
Dave Warn: Every student is different and every Christian campus is different. No one knows a high school senior better than his or her parents. The parents need to pray together about what environment will best suit their son or daughter’s needs and which one will be the best atmosphere helping to expand the God’s kingdom.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes the environment on a Christian school may not be as spiritually vibrant as one might hope (although sometimes it is). Whether at a Christian college or a secular university, the student will have to choose their friends and how they invest their time. A heart this is right with Lord will make the right choice in either environment. Many times, the outcome of a student’s faith is not so much a result of the institutions approach, but what the student has chosen to value long before they packed their bags for college.
Israel Wayne: If someone wants to support your work, what is the best way for them to get involved?
Dave Warn: Get in contact with Collegiate Impact by emailing us at CI@LifeAction.org. We’d love to hear from you.