Dear college freshman,
Ready or not here it comes: In a couple weeks you will begin classes as a college freshman. It’s no exaggeration that these next four years will be some of the most meaningful and formative of your life. For this reason, it’s vital that from the first day you set foot on campus you have the right perspective—one informed and shaped by the wisdom of God’s Word.
Perhaps you already know today’s typical college scene isn’t hospitable toward serious followers of Christ. In reality, it’s quite inhospitable, a spiritual war zone of sorts (Eph. 6:10–13). Drunkenness and sexual promiscuity are the norm, not the exception. Vulgarity is rampant. Porn is common. Academic integrity is increasingly elusive, and the winds of postmodernism blow briskly through the classroom. Consequently, the pressure on campus to conform to the world far outweighs any encouragement to live with biblical conviction.
That is why I’m writing to you—to encourage you to stand firm in the grace of God (1 Pet. 5:8–9, 12), and to let nothing come between you and Jesus during your freshman year.
Here is a five-part biblical strategy for maintaining a strong walk with God on campus.
1. Find a solid church home.
The first thing you need to do when starting your freshman year is find a good church. This is what they call a no-brainer. You need a church. Every Christian needs a church. A churchless Christian is a vulnerable Christian. Why? Because the local church is Christ’s ordained means of protecting, nourishing, equipping, and tending his blood-bought flock (John 21:15–17; Eph. 4:11–14). Jesus, the Good Shepherd, executes these tasks through spiritually qualified elders (1 Tim. 3:1–7). These undershepherds are called and set apart to faithfully proclaim the Word, administer the sacraments, pray, and watch over the souls of God’s children (1 Cor. 1:21; 11:23–26; Acts 6:4; Acts 20:28).
Therefore, dear freshman, if you neglect the ministry of the church during your college years you will be like a lost and exposed lamb in the wild, vulnerable to the evil one’s attacks (1 Pet. 5:8). Moreover, you will be impoverished of godly wisdom and accountability during a season of life when you need it most.
And not only do you need the church, but the church needs you. Christ has given you spiritual gifts to bless his body—yes, even in college. Christ’s body is healthiest when every member is doing their part. “When each part is working properly,” Paul writes, “the body grows so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16). You are a vital member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–26).
How might the Lord use your gifts to build up a local church? Perhaps you could assist with youth ministry or serve in the nursery or help with musical accompaniment in worship or take a missions trip. Opportunities abound. Discover how you can use your gifts to serve a church.
Make finding a church a priority—not a shallow congregation that replaces worship with entertainment and discipleship with amusement, but one that proclaims Christ from all of Scripture and shepherds its members’ souls. Jesus loved the church so much he gave his life for her (Eph. 5:25). We should love and cherish her, too.
2. Build a strong devotional life.
In addition to finding a solid church home, be sure to spend daily time with the Lord. Start each day seeking him through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer. This simple yet life-shaping discipline will set the right spiritual launch code, setting a daily course that combats sin and exalts Christ. When you pursue him this way, you enter each day wearing the armor of God, not just jeans and a T-shirt (Eph. 6:10–17).
There are many daily Bible reading plans available online. Choose one before you embark on your new semester. Spend 15 to 20 minutes each morning in the Word and prayer. Even Jesus “very early in the morning” sought time alone with his Father amid the busyness of life (Mark 1:35). We all need to “be still and know that [he] is God” (Ps. 46:10).
The world will always attempt to press you into its mold. Regular exposure to Scripture, along with godly reflection and prayer, will yield grace and wisdom to resist the world and live out your faith during these crucial years.
3. Cultivate healthy friendships.
Maintaining a godly focus in college involves establishing healthy friendships. Friends have a profound influence on the way we think and behave. We must be careful and wise with our choice of companions (Exod. 23:2; Prov. 13:20; Ps. 1:1–2).
As you approach your freshman year, decide what kinds of friendships you will cultivate. Will they be friends who build you up or drag you down? Will they encourage your walk with God or lead you away from him? Will they hold you accountable or let you wander down wrong paths?
God’s Word warns us that “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Be cautious and intentional, then, with the company you keep. And be sure to remember Jesus is the ultimate friend—“a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). He loves you, and he will never fail you or forsake you (Rom. 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:16–17).
4. Fight for sexual purity.
God designed sex for marriage (Gen. 2:24–25). Sex is meant to be a beautiful expression of love between a husband and wife in the context of a lifelong covenant (Song of Songs 6:2–3). When practiced outside of marriage, this gift is cheapened. When misused, it yields shame and brokenness.
Sexual promiscuity is rife on college campuses. “Hooking up” and engaging in unrestrained sexual behavior is almost expected in today’s student culture. But Christians are called to be courageously countercultural in this regard. Rather than give yourself to many, dear freshman, save yourself for one. Yes, save yourself for your future spouse—the one you will love and cherish as long as you both shall live. You won’t regret it.
Decide now that you won’t place yourself in compromising situations, especially as you have more freedom than you’ve ever before experienced. Sexual purity is the will of God for your life, so make it a high priority (1 Thess. 4:3–5; 1 Cor. 6:19–20).
5. Be gospel-driven.
There is nothing like the gospel to compel you to walk closely with God in college. This is the amazing news that God loved you so much that he sent his Son to fulfill the law’s demands (Heb. 4:15), bear the wretched curse (Gal. 3:13), and rise victoriously from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3–4).
King Jesus conquered sin, death, and hell, and he did it all for you—for all who turn from sin and rest in him alone for salvation.
Dear freshman, it is the glorious gospel of grace that will drive you to find a solid church home, foster a strong devotional life, establish healthy friendships, and pursue sexual purity. Good intentions, personal resolutions, and parental expectations may inspire for a time. But only by abiding in the incomparable love of Christ will you remain steadfast and immovable during your first year in college and beyond.
- Dear College Students, Read These Books (Matt Smethurst)
- Like Families and Soccer Teams: Church and Parachurch (Brian Strider)
- The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries (Jon Saunders)
- Why You Need a Church (Not Just a Campus Ministry) (Russell Moore)
- Is Church Membership Really Required? (Ricky Jones)
- How to Survive World Religions 101 (Michael Kruger)
- King Jesus on Your Campus: Resources for Effective College Ministry (Matt Smethurst)