Summer has arrived! The sun is shining (depending on where you live in the world), kids have finished school and students have returned home. If you are a student, have been a student, are going to become a university student or if you have kids who are students you will know that university can be daunting.
University is a place where many people ‘find their feet’, they live away from home, start to cook and clean and it is often a place where they find their own feet in terms of their faith. But university isn’t always a piece of cake is it? On top of the academic work and the new responsibilities that come with living away from home, Christian students face ridicule and opposition for what they believe.
Stephen Kellough, who was a campus chaplain at Wheaton College for 25 years, has written a great book called Walking with Jesus on Campus: How to care for your soul during college.
This book is full of stories and examples of the life of a university student, the joys and the difficulties, the times of triumph and the trenches of ‘defeat’. Kellough’s goal of the book is to…
“help the Christian student set spiritual priorities – not just to survive the college experience but to thrive as a follower of Christ.”
From experience I have found that students have a tough time when it comes to living out their faith during their university years. The pull of the world is very strong, many Christian students can feel lonely and the temptation is to find their identity in their grades, not in Christ. Therefore, any materials that would inform student workers, inform parents and encourage students to prepare for life at university are well worth investing in.
Kellough gives 10 truths that should comfort, challenge, inform and transform the Christian at university. The starting point is the realisation that God loves His people. There are many people in the world who will only stop and think about faith when they are older, they want to ‘live’ and only think about Jesus once they’ve had fun. Kellough speaks about this in his own life too…
“I lived my early Christian life with the belief that God really did not like me. God tolerated me, I thought, in the hopes of improving me. One day I just might get myself together, quit sinning, and start behaving like Jesus. Then, I was certain, God would approve of me.”
Many people think this way, Kellough helps the reader understand that this isn’t true by taking them to Scripture.He touches on topics like guilt, God’s perfection, God’s love and the difference between feelings and truth.
He goes on to speak about weakness and how it is not such a bad thing, but that the wonderful news is that God uses the weak and He uses our weakness to display His strength. There are many sections in this book that you would expect to be in a book for students like relationships and sex, church community, self worth, depression, doubt and so on, but there are also parts that aren’t maybe as expected. There is a whole chapter on perfectionism, he says…
“Perfection is an unrealistic goal, to be sure. I think we would all enthusiastically agree. Yet we often put pressure on ourselves to achieve that goal and consider anything falling short to be failure. so when our efforts fall short and we fail at perfection, we can be awfully hard on ourselves. It’s called “perfectionism”‘
One of the things that I like about this book is that it doesn’t speak at you, but it is written in a very conversational way and the tone of the book comes from a genuine desire to see students grow in their faith. Every chapter contains Bible passages with the desire to see students see that the Bible is the place that has the answers. Kellough speaks about the importance of the church and community, this should not be overlooked. The students who have stood firm are often the ones who get plugged into a good local church, who desire to grow and learn about God and who are involved with Christian groups at university. Students, like every other church member, should be encouraged to serve, to grow and to walk the life that Jesus calls His people to.
Every chapter ends with reflection questions that will really help you think about how the chapter affects you personally. You could read this book on your own, in a youth group or as a group of students who are trying to help each other grow in their faith.
STEPHEN KELLOUGH BA, Miami University, Oxford, OH; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary; DMin, Covenant Theological Seminary, is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA. He served for fifteen years in parish ministry before being called as Chaplain of Wheaton College in 1989. He retired from this position after serving for twenty-five years. Steve and his wife, Linda, have one son, Jeffrey (wife-Sheralynn), and twin grandchildren, Luke and Brielynn.