Lose Your Faith at an Evangelical College? That’s Part of the Process

Research shows that students at CCCU schools are more likely to face a religious crisis than their secular counterparts.

It was quiet in the morning chapel when a Bethel University student took a pen and paper and put words to the fear: “Does God really love me?”

Then another student at the small evangelical school in Mishawaka, Indiana, took another piece of paper and wrote, “Am I good enough?”

Three students wrote, “Can a loving God send unbelievers to hell?” Six asked, “Why does God answer some prayers and not others?” Twelve: “Is Christianity the only way?” Twenty: “Is God really real?”

Shawn Holtgren, Bethel’s vice president for student development, was not surprised at the questions and doubts, which come up for students every year.

“In youth group they were surrounded by likeminded kids, and then they come to a place like Bethel, and they enter into a more searching phase,” Holtgren told CT. “It’s a process of beginning to question.”

A new two-part study published in Christian Higher Educationshows how common it is for students at evangelical colleges and universities to struggle with their faith. In fact, they are more likely to feel unsettled about spiritual matters, unsure of their beliefs, disillusioned with their religious upbringing, distant from God, or angry with God than their peers at secular schools as well as those at mainline Protestant and Catholic institutions.

Jennifer Carter, an assistant professor of leadership at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, analyzed surveys of more than 14,000 students at 136 colleges and universities, looking for patterns and predictors of religious struggle.

Carter found that students at evangelical schools experience “unique patterns of religious struggle.” At most …

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