New study: college students becoming less religious, more depressed

Just how much honor and meaning is there in binge drinking, hooking up and talking about who is the biggest victim?

Campus Reform reports:

According to research conducted by University of California-Los Angeles, 27 percent of college freshmen no longer identify with a certain religion—the highest this trend has seen in 40 years.

According to the study conducted in 2014, among college freshman, 30 percent of men and 25.4 percent of women responded with “none” when asked a religious preference. This is an increase from a 1971 study that recorded 17.3 percent of men and 13.5 percent of women who responded with “none” as their selection.

[…]The same study also showed a profound increase in depression among college freshmen. There is an epidemic of “emotional health issues” within the same students, the study also found.

In speaking with Christians who left their faith in college, I have found that it’s typically not cognitive. They wanted to have a good time after escaping from the nest, and they just dropped Christianity and started drinking a lot and having a lot of sex with a lot of people they barely knew. “Everyone” was doing it – it was fun and thrills, and who cares how it impacts your future and your ability to serve God or get married?

Now I want this to be a positive post, so I’ll link to J. Warner Wallace who has the solution to the problem.

He writes:

In my last post, I summarized the studies and publications that describe the flight of young people from the Church. A compelling cumulative circumstantial case can be made to support the fact that young college aged Christians are walking away from Christianity in record numbers. What can we do about it? What can be done? Whenever people ask me this question, I always say the same thing. STOP TEACHING YOUNG CHRISTIANS. Just stop it. Whatever Christendom is doing in its effort to teach it’s young, the effort appears to largely be a failure. In fact, Ken Ham (in his book, Already Gone:Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It) found that young Christians who faithfully attended Bible classes were actually more likely to question the authority of Scripture, more likely to defend the legality of abortion, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex, and more likely to leave the church! What’s going on here? I think I know. It’s time to stop teaching ouryoung people; it’s time to start training them.

There’s a difference between teaching and training. Training is teaching in preparation for a battle. Boxers train for upcoming fights. In fact, boxers are sometimes known to get fat and lazy until the next fight is scheduled. Once the date has been signed, fighters begin to train in earnest. Why? Because they know that they are going to eventually get in the ring and face an aggressive opponent. We train when we know we are about to encounter a battle. Imagine for a moment that you are enrolled in an algebra class. If the teacher assured you that you would never, ever be required to take a test, and that you would pass the class regardless of your level of understanding, how hard do you think you would study? How deeply do you think you would come to understand the material? How committed do you think you would be to the material?

The problem we have in the Church today is not that we lack good teachers. There are many excellent teachers in the Church. The problem is that none of these teachers are scheduling battles. Make no mistake about it, there are battles looming for each and every young Christian in the Church today, but church leaders are not involved in the scheduling of these battles. The battles are waiting for our sons and daughters when they get to University (or enter the secular workplace). The Church needs to be in the business of scheduling battles and training our young people for these battles. Teaching without a planned battle is little more than “blah, blah blah.” This is the problem with traditional Sunday School programs. They are often well-intended, informative and powerfully delivered. But they are impotent, because our young people have no sense of urgency or necessity. There is no planned battle looming on the horizon and the battle of University life is simply too far away to be palpable. It’s time to address the problem not with our classes but with our calendar. It’s time to start scheduling battles so our teaching becomes training.

Just stop it!

I think that’s good advice – but I don’t think that Christian parents or Christian pastors are following it as much as we need to be.

5 thoughts on “New study: college students becoming less religious, more depressed”

  1. I think that’s a really good point and not just for children. We have a version of Christianity these days that suggests ease, prosperity, and comfort. The truth is faith is real battle, at the very least requiring a great deal of spiritual warfare. Often the more progress you make, the harder the battle is going to get. When things aren’t easy, people lose their faith because they think they’re doing it wrong or somebody was lying to them.

    You see the same thing in marriage, people don’t get married prepared for battle (not with your spouse) but with everything that will attack and try to destroy that relationship. Then people bail at the first sign of trouble.

    Depression is interesting. You find the highest rates of it in the happiest, healthiest countries. One would expect people to suffer more depression in places like war torn Somalia, but they don’t. Besides the chemical imbalances, depression really comes from trying to pour too many external things into your soul, sex, drugs, party, people, material things.


  2. Well this would be a reason but some other reasons would be christian parents not preparing their children for real-life situations. My best friend who is a christian has overbearing parents, she couldnt do anything. Her mom actually freaked out when i called her to see if she was going to make it to see this band playing at hot topic . So i can hear the whole conversation over the phone mostly cause the mom was yelling. She told her daughter ” you planned for your friend to call me so you can go to some demonic rock band”

    I found that hilarious, we didn’t plan anything in advance. My friend was the one who invited me because it was a friend from her college. There is no problem in parents wanting their children to walk with christ and live biblical lives, however due to the extremely lack of preparation of course christian youth in high school & especially college is gonna get involve into questioning their faith, having pre-martial sex etc.

    Christian people should not be so freaking surprise and when it comes to the sex talk how about actually talking to your kids about sex,their reproductive systems,relationships & diseases and pregnancy because so far constantly saying no and preaching abstinence without proper sex ed on the human body is not working.


  3. I like your distinction between teaching and training, but the way that Campus Reform implies that depression is linked to the decline in religious affiliation is just bad logic. They might go the same way on the graph, and anecdotes certainly suggest that loss of faith can be depressing, but that is so far from being a scientific study that it’s crazy.


  4. Religion is caught, not taught. One of the greatest things about the church I attend it that there is often more testimony in the fellowship area after church than in the sanctuary or in Bible class. Because we are sharing our real life lessons with one another and not just reading a list of proof passages, it becomes very personal. (Of course, the Bible study is o so important so that our applications are scripturally backed.)

    Now, children come to church and are among peers that are as clueless about life as they are. So what they gain by fellowship is of much less value than what they learn in their own homes in modeling their parents. Therefore, youth cannot have fixed in Bible study what is incorrectly modeled at home. Again, fellowshipping with adults, they can learn a few things; but it this advice goes contrary to what is observed in their parents, it only breeds confusion and a sense of hypocrisy.

    For parents to get to children, they have to practice what they preach. And they need to discuss what happens to them in their daily life and how they deal with it. Most importantly, they need to daily gather around the Word that gives forgiveness, guidance and strength, so that their children understand the reality of the battle, the reality of their own weaknesses, and the reality of the power in God’s Word.


  5. Actually, this is *exactly* what our church does with the kiddos, from the time they show up at church! There are different classes for various age ranges, and it’s not all of the ‘fun’ stories like Daniel in the Lion’s Den and Jonah; they begin teaching them genuine, deep theology and apologetics from the youngest age of understanding. It’s really incredible, and I must confess to being quite envious of the education the kids at our church are receiving.


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