Before sending my child to college

My son Jackson is finishing his junior year of high school this month. Next year at this time we’ll be getting him ready to venture off to college. Part of me is very excited for him, but another part of me feels cautious as well.

I feel that we’ve done a good job getting him ready for adulthood. But there’s one area we need to do a little more. I think after reading this guest post today from Dr. Frank Turek, you’ll see what I mean…

Part 1: Intellectual Predators
By Dr. Frank Turek , co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
Founder and President of www.CrossExamined.org

“Dad, I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.”

My friend never thought he would hear those words. After all, he’s a well-known pastor with a large church and an international ministry. Yet, after just one year of college, his own daughter doubted nearly everything he tried to instill in her for eighteen years. “I now realize that I did not do a good job showing her why Christianity is true,” he told me. “Now, it might be too late.”

He’s not the only parent or pastor who’s failed to provide sound answers to young people. There are plenty of examples:

Julie, a pastor’s daughter, became an agnostic at UNC Chapel Hill.

Steve, son of a famous Christian, renounced biblical morality at Elon.

John, a high school worker for Campus Crusade, became an atheist after reading a Richard Dawkins’ book on atheism.

In fact, the problem is at epidemic levels — 75% of young adults raised in a Christian home leave the church after they leave the home. Think about that — on average, three out of every four kids attending your youth group won’t be attending any church a few years from now.

Why are they leaving? Some think church is irrelevant. Others, out on their own for the first time, are attracted by all the world has to offer and put God on the back burner. Yet many leave because they’ve come to doubt Christianity. In fact, intellectual skepticism is a major reason cited by those who have left.

We can lay the blame for much of this on ourselves — that is, on the church. While there are notable exceptions, many American churches over-emphasize emotion and ignore the biblical commands to develop the mind (1 Pet 3:15, 2 Cor. 10:5).

In other words, we’re doing a great job performing for our youth with skits, bands and videos, but a terrible job informing them with logic, truth, and a Christian worldview. We’ve failed to recognize that what we win them with we win them to. If we win them with emotion, we win them to emotion.

Intellectual Predators on Campus: In 2007, two Jewish researchers conducted a survey to discover the degree to which College faculty are anti-Semitic. To their surprise, they found very little anti-Semitism among professors. Instead, they found professors harbor a distinct anti-Christian bias, particularly toward evangelical students.

The survey showed that:

· The most disliked students by college professors are evangelical Christians. More than half (53%) of all college professors view evangelical students unfavorably. Mormons are next at 33 percent, followed by Muslims at 22 percent. Jewish students have the lowest unfavorable ratings—only three percent.

· College professors are five times more likely to identify themselves as atheists than the general public.

· College professors are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as liberal than the general public.

One former professor summed up the climate on campus well when he warned parents that “we professors are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” He said that we professors “arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.”

This is the environment into which intellectually unarmed Christian students are sent. Are your kids ready? Do you want to know how you can get them ready?

Visit our website www.CrossExamined.org and check back here at Lysa’s blog this week for Part 2.


  1. says

    Wow, Lysa. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    I am a college professor who teaches history and political science. The history book I have to use totally takes out God…it proclaims that the Bible is merely a story book, and that Jesus is nothing more than a historical figure. I, being the queen of my classroom, throw out the book and bring in my own notes about Christianity…about Jesus. I also let my students know at the very beginning of the class in the “get to know you section” that I am a Christian. I make no bones about it. Because, as your blog posting indicates, I may be one of a VERY FEW teachers who actually believe…who actually profess their faith.

    In my field, we are taught to look at all sides. Let students form their own opinions. And that is good…to an extent.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m going to visit the website you mentioned and delve in a little further. Thanks again for posting this. We need to hear it!

    Prayers and Blessings, Lysa!

  2. says

    Lysa-this really bothers me because one of my greatest fears is that my children will walk away from our faith because we did not live it well enough. I did that as a young adult. I had to live it in every aspect of my life-church, school, home…too many rules and not enough of God. I plan to show this to my husband as we lead our church youth ministry and I think this is a vital direction to go in our next series of study!!

    Another thought, I teach at a local liberal arts “christian” college and I am so disheartened with the campus. They are going in such a wide direction of reaching diversity that God is being shoved out and the world and its beliefs are taking over. The religion professors claim their classes are challengening the student to believe what they believe but I tend to see it differently and so do the students whoo care about their faith beliefs. My department does not follow the colleges new stance but I have opted to go part time this next year and will probably exit the environment after that. We have to raise our kids to be strong enough to fight against satans teaching in the college classroom. They might call it diversity—I don’t agree. It is a very tough environment out there. We have to teach our kids well at home. We have to live our faith!

    In His Graces~Pamela

  3. says

    I still remember the day in 5th grade that I told our oldest that it was okay with me if she had to tell me she didn’t really believe in God. Her eyes got HUGE. Then we really pressed in to pursuing God, that special relationship, not just that He is and what He can do. Glory it is hard to trust our children to Him. But I HANG on to the following scripture—“So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, and succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Is.55:11 Maybe I stretched the text but I always had the sense that when His Word had been planted in our children that they would be His–no matter how much their path wiggled. We don’t want them to walk off the narrow path, but we do want them to really grab hold of a relationship with Jesus as their own, not just a tradition of their family faith. Be encouraged that you have been planting a lot in your children and pray till you KNOW His peace. We want to avoid pain and poor choices but I say, “whatever it takes God”. Such a hard prayer but fruitful in the end. Remember, with those children you mentioned—the story is not done until they breath their last. Their is always hope that they will return and God is certainly always waiting for each of us.

  4. says

    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking topic.

    I was one of these kids. My Sunday School and youth group faith didn’t stand up to the intellectualism that I developed as a college student and young adult. I became cynical and walked away from God for many years. Maybe my parents or my youth leaders failed, but I really think that God gives us all free will, even young people. Childhood faith is easy. Grown-up faith is hard. At some point you need to make your faith your own and not rely on emotionalism or living in a bubble of Christianity.

    I am thankful that others planted seeds of faith in my heart as a young person because even as a cynical adult I knew that I had experienced Truth. It just took me a long time to find it again.

    The Good News is that we have a loving father who runs with open arms to welcome His prodigal children home again.


  5. says

    Send him to Liberty University!! They teach the Truth of God’s word and you get a great education. Now at 42 I use my degree in Journalism, but what I got from godly professors is priceless!

    I went to public school my whole life until college. I really appreciated being grounded at home and then it was confirmed by the professors that I looked up to.

  6. says

    Thanks for sharing Lysa..
    Its very interesting and very scary. I have seen kids raised in the church to turn away from God once on their own. Its very difficult on the parents. We gotta keep praying our kids won’t go astray!

  7. says

    This is one of the scariest aspects of parenting.

    We were talking about part of this in our Bible Study class yesterday morning. It concerns me that there is such a trend toward making everything “fun” for our kids. Heaven forbid they should do anything uncomfortable that is good for them. But that is what being disciplined (and discipled) is all about. As a result, kids don’t know the books of the Bible, memory verses, etc. Not to mention the bigger issues. My daughter came home from her 7th grade youth group saying they tried to do a “Bible drill” and gave up because she was the only one who could find any of the verses. And these are all girls who have been in the church since infancy.

    I’m not advocating a return to the days of harshness. But the things I relied on in college and since have been the foundations I learned, yes even drilled, as a child. . . .even when I didn’t want to.

    I’ll save the rest of my soapbox for another time. 🙂

  8. says

    Thanks for this post. I cannot agree more, and I especially appreciate this quote…”If we win them with emotion, we win them to emotion.” We’ve got to help personalize faith for our kids. It’s not about entertaining them, it’s about letting them know that this whole life thing revolves around Him. If our kids see Him as our hope…joy…life, they will believe He will be the same to them. We can’t let society be the loudest influencer on our children. But in order to influence them, we’ve gotta first get “well” ourselves! They see through our fluff.

    Keeping it real!
    Lisa 🙂

  9. Shelly says

    Oh, this is so true, and so scary! I could not agree more with this statement: “many American churches over-emphasize emotion and ignore the biblical commands to develop the mind.” I am SO grateful for a church that does not cater to the whims of the culture, that truly challenges our kids to know God’s word first and foremost. There are plenty of churches around that will entertain my child, but not enough that will challenge my child.

    Lysa, I noticed that you are coming to the Chicago area in October for the Outreach luncheon. I will be there, and I can’t wait to hear you! Why don’t you check out Wheaton when you’re up here? 🙂

  10. says

    My husband and I were just talking about this last night. Our oldest just returned from his first year in college, faith in tact. We’re so thankful for this; however, we also understand that his Christian walk exceeds the walks of his parents. He understands that a walk with Christ is a relationship, not a religion.

    A faith that sticks is a faith that has been made real to an individual. It’s up to us as parents to live a real, authentic, faith before our children. We are the channel that God can most effectively use to model true, Christian living. They may not always appreciate it, but when we live our lives as true worshippers, they can never accuse us of hypocrisy. In the end, truth wins out. I believe this from the bottom of my heart.

    So each day, I endeavor to live a real faith before my children. No greater gift could I give them.


  11. deenafromiowa says

    Hello Lysa
    This topic has hit me very close to home. My 17 yr old son has declared that he no longer believes in God. He is now a Buddist. We feel that we have failed him in so many ways. My oldest daughter just came home from her second year of college. She goes to Marquette University. She has felt the battle in the classroom against her evangelical Christian views on a daily basis. We just pray daily that they both go in the direction that God wants for them in their lives.
    Have a great day

  12. says

    Our Bible study class has spent a year focusing on children’s discipleship…and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about those very scary statistics. One thing my husband and I have learned from personal experience is that the church is there to supplement what we should be teaching our kids at home. God tells us to talk about Him when we walk, eat, sit, and to post it on our doors. It’s our job first. The second thing we’ve learned is that more than anything we want our kids to know God and what He is like…”Teach me your ways so that I may KNOW you.” We teach them His ways, not so they can memorize a whole bunch of stories or rules, but so they can have a personal relationship with the creator and ruler of the universe. And then not only are they grounded in the logistics of the thing if someone tries to lead the way, but they are “rooted and grounded in love…and have the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” If they are tempted, they’re not walking away from a book, they’re having to walk away from someone they know loves them. Makes it a lot harder choice to leave and an easier choice to come back. Wish I’d known Him like that…

  13. says

    Wow! I am completely floored. I didn’t go to college and my faith is stronger than ever. My sister did go to college and has become very liberal. She is now for certain topics she had once thought appalling. She fully embraces karma and other such thinking. It is hard to see her walk away from her faith. It is harder to see she doesn’t see herself walking away. She says she is finding her own faith. I can only pray she will return to the faith of her youth.

  14. Anonymous says

    So far, we have had three children who are in college or have completed their degree, with their faith intact. However, none of them have lived at college. We are fortunate to have some very fine colleges within driving distance, so I am sure that plays a part in their college experience. As their parents, we have witnessed the almost daily bombardment of their faith and values, but have witnessed our children’s ability to sort through the retoric, to see the emptiness of a non-Biblical worldview, and to defend their faith. We must live authentic lives in our families, we must not gloss over troubles with a Bible verse and go on our way without investing the time it takes to get in our kids heads and hearts to see what is really going on. Fortunately, in our family we have had plenty of trials that our children have been a part of or observed, and by dealing with financial issues, job issues, family relationship issues in compassionate, Biblical ways, our kids see how faith works, they see how to trust in God, they see the peace of knowing God is in control, etc. And you know what, our kids are responsible for their own choices, we cannot control their decisions and thoughts, but we pray and trust the Lord, who they really belong to anyway. cathy

  15. says

    Thanks for this Lysa. As you know our daughter is going to college this fall and I will be sharing these articles with her. Her faith and apologetics are way stronger than mine (I was one that went to college and walked away for a season.) It certainly can’t hurt to have the discussion-even if she’s going to a Christian university! She is already hearing about the ‘worldly’ stuff that some of the kids get into and I really want her to be grounded enough to turn from those things no matter what.

  16. says

    Timely post. Although our oldest son is only 13, I have begun thinking of this a lot as I want him (and all my children) to embrace a RELATIONSHIP w/Christ, rather than the RULES that so many churches emphasize. I also fully agree with you about emotionalism in churches. It seems that many churches are all about making you feel ‘happy’ but not many are willing to challenge and stretch your faith.

    I’m looking forward to reading more and exploring the site mentioned in your post.

  17. says

    Dear Lysa,
    I think that part of the problem is that we put too much hope in our churches to teach our kids what they need to know. It is like having someone else always cooking for you, then when you’re on your own you will have no idea how to prepare your own food for yourself! Having a daily walk with God is the answer for our kids, and making sure they have studied the Bible to confirm why they believe what they believe. Going to church should be like the occasional eating out, its a treat but not the sustenance of your week.

  18. says

    Lysa, I will be on Harvest Show this Friday talking about this very thing. I understand the statistics. If a young adult is challenged in their faith (whether by another person or living life on their own for the first time and dealing with it) and they dig deep and all they find is lots of sermons or family tradition or fun youth experiences, it’s simply not enough. At some point we all need to make that decision that our faith is personal and real in good times or bad times or whether it is challenged or despised. It’s called discipleship. It’s why I wrote my last book for teens and it’s what I’ll be sharing on the show — not to sell books, but because as a youth worker I can list hundreds of names of teens who once had what appeared to be vibrant faith, but who lost their way. Many have come back, but that detour was costly for many, only to realize that God was real and life changing.


  19. says

    Oh, so true! I am at a public university right now, where I expected to encounter atheism and liberalism. However, what surprised me was that I went to a conservative Christian college for a year, and if I were not already a Christian, my Old Testament professor would have convinced me that the Bible is a fairy tale. It is wise for us to prepare our children and this really opened my eyes to this danger. I am glad you are bringing this up.

  20. says

    Lysa, thanks for this guest post. We are just 2 years away from seeing our son go off to University. As others have said, faith does begin at home. I pray that the life we have lived before our son has been an example of trusting God in the good and bad and laid a foundation that will not easily be shaken.

    Prayer is crucial. We continue to pray that our son will never turn away from his relationship with the Lord, but that He will continue to grow in his personal walk with his Savior.

    Looking forward to reading Part 2.

  21. says

    Great topic and sober statistics. After being on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 11 years, I know how difficult it is to make an impact on the college campus.

    But there is hope. Pray for the work of groups like InterVarsity and Campus Crusade and Navigators and a host of others. Support local leaders of those groups with prayer, friendship, and finances. (Yes, they raise 100% of their support just like missionaries overseas.)

    One of the most crucial times is when the school years starts. If a student is going to get involved in a campus group to help them in their walk on campus, this time is crucial. But the amount of organizations to choose from is staggering — Greek life, sports, music, . . . . The Christian groups work really hard to meet people, but it is a ton of work.

    When I was on staff, we tried to follow up every contact at a booth or event in person within 48 hours. It was exhausting but helpful. Still, we didn’t always manage it.

    I love the part about winning with emotion you win to emotion. That is so true. Campus is an intellectual arena and students need to know how to think critically about their faith.

    A good first, basic book is, “Know Why You Believe” by Paul Little. Paul was on staff with IV in the 1970’s and was killed in a car wreck, but his book is still foundational. It would be great for people to do with small groups of high school students or young adults.Itis still in print and has been updated!

    Sorry to ramble!

  22. says

    Wow, that is scary. Our oldest will start college in the fall. What can we do to help them maintain their faith?

  23. says

    Thanks for the post…a true word of warning for parents and Christian leaders. One of my boys survived college with his faith intact; the other exited with his faith under attack. Fifteen years later both are strong in faith and serve in a lay capacity in the church. My husband and I talked frankly to the boys about faith and topics likely to be attacked: evolution, the divinity of Jesus, the necessity of salvation, the efficacy of prayer, the Bible as the Word of God among others. We always encouraged them to question, to discuss and to find answers in the Word. By the Grace of God they are serving Christ today. AND…both went to a “Christian” liberal arts college!!

    We didn’t know ahead of time about the “religion” professor who would regularly discredit anything Paul wrote; or the science professor who scoffed at creation; or the psychology professor who challenged Evangelical Christianity God was good to us. Parent need to know, to prepare their student and to PRAY!!!

  24. says

    We just saw our daughter graduate from a large university scene (PSU) this past weekend. All I can add is that my quirky personality and sense of humor allows me to easily testify repeatedly to my girls on God’s love and grace that surrounds us. Looking back now, I actually believe I represented His love even while I was partying in my early college days and in how I met their Dad in a tacky 80’s disco. They know my failures growing up in a home that allowed alcohol and actually supported it as a rite of passage. To be fully honest about her education…our daughter wasn’t exposed to instruction that questioned God’s word being a math major and the electives she chose also didn’t hurt her trust in God. Actually once her 1st semester roomie moved out to be (this young woman actually sickened and scared my daughter with her behavior) with her new sorority sisters I truely felt she was in His hands because young woman on good grounded common sense appeared into her life! Also having an organization and cause that reached out to those hurting such as THON at PSU helped immensely…as a family we plan on attending every year we can. Thank You God!!!!

  25. says

    Thanks for sharing this. This is an area that God has been challenging me personally.
    I have been reading and learning and I started mentoring 2 high school senior girls.
    I’m looking forward to next week’s lesson.

  26. says

    While some of the blame lies with the church, it is parents who should have the most influence on their children. Unfortunately, we pass the blame to the school, or the church, or _________ (fill in the blank.) It’s time for parents to step up and take responsibility for their children’s education in all areas – spiritual, academic, etc.

    We are going to get a copy of “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” by Alex and Brett Harris. Even though our girls are nearly 18 and 21, we feel we, and they, can still be challenged by this book.

  27. says

    this post stopped my heart. I now know i have to pray harder, harder, harder.

    May our kids’ generation flip this whole statistic right upside down!

  28. says

    Hey Lysa, my husband and I both teach college at a state unvierstiy, so you know this is a topic dear to me. Here are my tips if you’re child is going to a secular school…

    Encourage your child to find out early on from other Christian students who the Christian professors are on campus – and then take their classes. They could even request one to be their academic advisor.

    Generally, avoid taking religion and philosophy classes. Even at univeristies with a “christian heritage” these classes tend to champion doubt and untruths. Your nineteen-year-old (no matter how well you’ve prepared him/her) will have trouble arguing with these professors, and may be persuaded by them. Plus your child will be made to look and feel silly infront of the class – increasing the peer pressure to change thier beliefs.

    Encourage your student to get involved in healthy student groups – campus christian groups, student government, etc. – early on. Peer groups are KEY.

    Your best best for changing the campus culture is to change it through influencing the students, not through aruging against the bias of tenured professors.
    Meanwhile, your best bet for minimizing any atheist professors’ dislike is to do excellent work in their class.

    I hope more Christian professors will enter/stay in the non-christian teaching arena to be a lighthouse to the students there. While many students fall away from the faith in college, others find their faith there. I did! This was a great post, Lysa. Thanks!