Most Christians have valid concerns that elite colleges and universities stifle faith, marginalize Christian viewpoints, and are at times outright hostile towards Christian students. Perhaps that’s part of why a recent study found “that roughly 70% of high school students who enter college as professing Christians will leave with little to no faith.” Most lose their faith without giving it much thought: church attendance becomes sporadic, Christian friends are few and far between, and, slowly, vice and sin become more prominent parts of life. The goodness of a life following Jesus falls by the wayside.
Because faith is meant to be lived out in community, if students aren’t intentional about finding a faith community in college they risk slipping into nonbelief. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you were to ask me what the most impactful part of my time at Stanford has been, I would hands-down say it has been the way God has shaped me through Christian community. My faith has grown more in these past few years than I could have ever imagined or prayed for before coming to college.
So, how does that happen on a secular, liberal campus in the heart of the tech world, which prides itself on progress and scorns anything deemed “old-fashioned?” The answer is simple: strong community. When I was accepted to Stanford, I met other Christian students in group chats, and when I moved to campus, I joined a Christian fellowship, and ultimately made some of my lifelong best friends. I’d grown up a Christian, had gone to Christian camps, and had attended youth groups, but I’d never truly experienced living in Christian community. It completely changed my life in the best ways possible.
I share this story to illustrate the power that you have to find and form community during your time at Stanford. It will be critical to be intentional as you seek out fellowship, and I have outlined some general guidelines below.
- Research the different Christian groups on campus, and reach out to their leadership to learn more. Scroll through their websites and social media. Look, if you have time to stalk your classmates online, you have time to look at ministries.
- Chi Alpha Stanford
- The Catholic Community at Stanford
- Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) (and yes, you can go even if you aren’t on an athletic team at Stanford!)
- Christian Union at Stanford
- Intervarsity at Stanford (IV)
- Acts 2 Fellowship
- Moment Christian Fellowship at Stanford
- Attend their services to understand what makes the most sense for you. While you may feel a bit overwhelmed being at college for the first time or busy with classes, nurturing your faith isn’t something that can afford to wait, especially given Stanford’s overwhelmingly secular culture. This isn’t about a four year commitment to a student group—it’s about a lifelong commitment to Jesus and developing your relationship with Him.
- Once you are at a service, pay attention to the ways you can get more involved in their community. Most groups have smaller Bible studies or similar meetings throughout the week, a great opportunity to grow in your faith and meet mentors in your community. There are also organizations where Christians across the different campus groups gather, including Faith & Friends events, Veritas Forum discussions, and Stanford’s Christian journal Vox Clara.
- Look for a local church to attend with other students. For example, RUF is associated with Grace Presbyterian (a short drive from campus), and students from Chi Alpha, Christian Union, and FCA also attend there. Upperclassmen with cars often lead carpools, and the trip to brunch afterwards is a great chance to meet students from different ministries, discuss the service, and enjoy some Stanford-emblazoned Arrillaga waffles.
One of the best practices to adopt in college is attending church every Sunday. But I have pset due. But I have a midterm. Once I’ve gotten through this quarter I can go to church. Once I graduate…. We’ve all been there. But there will always be those sorts of excuses. Once you’ve graduated college and are in the “real world”, you may have a demanding boss, lots of kids running around at home, or any number of time-consuming aspects to your life. Those don’t make church less important, so get in the habit of making time for church now.
- Don’t give into the Stanford culture of sin. Jesus never promised it would be easy to follow Him in our fallen world: “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” At Stanford, this call can be difficult. Whether you have FOMO about hookup culture, or are concerned you will be ostracized for not getting wasted on a Friday, or worry what people will think when you don’t want to smoke weed with them, let me reassure you. That’s not the case.
The promise of satisfaction through hookup culture or hard-partying always fails in the end. Have fun, but do so in a way that builds you up, not in a way that rips you apart. It is imperative to avoid vices like drunkenness and lust and instead cultivate virtues like kindness and humility. If I could remind you of one thing it would be this: all God-given commands are ordered towards our ultimate good, protection, and joy. And yes, that takes faith and trust to believe, but He gave us every reason to trust Him when He sent Christ to die a brutal death for our sins.
Staying true to your faith is a serious undertaking at a place like Stanford, but it can also be the most rewarding part of your time on campus. It is vital that you use your first quarter in college to get plugged into Christian community. The beginning of the year is fun and exciting, but as you begin to face any of the myriad challenges college will throw at you, having a dependable community to hold you accountable for your actions, walk with you at your darkest moments, and show you Jesus’ love makes all the difference in the world.
If you have any questions about Christian life on campus, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org