Media review | May 8, 2016

What to pack for college

As a pastor and the parent of young adults, at times I am stumped when it comes to passing along the life-giving, life-altering concepts of faith and Bible teaching that have deeply influenced me. Dale Goldsmith, a professor and dean at McPherson College for 28 years, has spent considerable time paying attention to this topic and has addressed some of these questions in two recent books, Growing in Wisdom: Called to the Adventure of College (Cascade Books, 2014) and Look—I Am With You: Daily Devotions for the College Year (Cascade Books, 2015).

Growing in Wisdom addresses questions that a Christian family or faith community might want to raise with a young person heading off to college: How do you navigate a new college landscape if you have roots in a Christian way of viewing the world? What if college is part of your calling as a Christian? What if you take your Christianity to college with you?

Growing in Wisdom helps reveal options for using scripture as a way to approach life’s questions and the problems a college student might face, from “What is faith?” to “What should I choose for a major?” More than a manual of how to avoid beer pong and bad behavior, this book looks at what college has to offer to young adults alongside what Jesus has to offer to college students.

And if a person wants to pass along Bible insights and life-changing foundations of Christian teaching, where does one begin? Goldsmith starts with Colossians, the book that “holds all things together”—not a bad place to begin for the life-changing experiences that college can bring. He then turns to the book of Matthew, which offers the picture of Jesus as the teacher—a good fit for a college devotional. Then 1 Corinthians focuses on life when things get messy. And finally 1 Peter, where Jesus’ followers are sent out into the world as exiles. The devotional reads each book as a whole, gleaning the powerful insights that the book has to offer. This is then related to the many challenges and experiences that college students will likely face.

For many young adults heading off to college, we in the church may have dropped the ball. This is the time and place for resources that give serious consideration to what lies ahead for young adults. Where are the tools for Christians who care about young people and wish to share possible resources for life changing conversations? Why wait until a faith crisis to offer a book that can sustain them spiritually while in college? Remember that vow at the time of child dedication to “provide spiritual nurture” and to “help them grow in the knowledge of Christ”? These are resources that can help a church put “walking shoes” on that vow.

As author and poet Annie Dillard writes in When People Come to Church, “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? . . . It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.” These books provide a source for crash helmets.

Gail Erisman Valeta is a pastor at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, Colo., an instructor in conflict transformation, and wife and mother of two young adults.