Attempts to quantify the attrition rate from faith during undergraduate years of those who leave school ostensibly as Christians put the figure at an alarming 70-75%. Why is this, and what can be done to slow, if not stem the tide?
The loss of what has appeared to be promising faith can be viewed through the prism of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8). The Christian seed fails to take root as it collapses in the face of opposition, or is displaced by hedonism, consumerism, career advancement, distraction by growing adult responsibilities or peer group pressure. The intellectual onslaught against, or belittlement or exclusion of faith in the tertiary sphere can be strident. The allure of sex, materialism and lifestyle can be powerful.
What can Christian schools and churches do to future-proof and case-harden emerging adults as they transition into university years?
Garber (2007) argues that young people at this flexion point need assistance to develop a comprehensive Christian world which is sufficiently robust to navigate challenges, a committed mature mentor who embodies and faithfully lives such a world view, and a strong Christian community which gives plausibility to such a commitment. They need to deepen their knowledge and application of faith to parallel the sophistication of their university studies if they are to avoid a cognitive dissonance which will make their faith seem infantile. To this might be added adequate grounding in Christian apologetics.
Failure by schools and churches to strategise in this area will see the attrition continue, and even worsen.
Dean of Education Designate, Morling College