In 2010, the University of Texas was named the nation’s #1 party school. We (UT) seem to find ourselves on the top 10 or 20 of this list every year. As a result, many well meaning high school students, parents, and youth pastors fear sending their students to the University of Texas.
Some of the concern may be justified, but I have some pretty strong thoughts and feelings about why these thoughts are not justified. Honestly, it is one of my “soapbox issues.” I welcome your thoughts and objections to this post.
Like I wrote about a few weeks ago, a real-life conversation would be better than posts and written comments. Still, I hope this generates some conversation whether on this blog or among your friends. Here is some food for thought on this subject.
You Can Party at Any School
The simple fact is that you can party at any school. I have two friends who partied out of Baylor and Texas A&M, the two bigger schools many Christian parents prefer to send their kids to in Texas. The party scenes at those schools are little to no different than the party scenes at UT. Trust me, I could tell you stories, as could any other graduate of those schools.
You Can Walk with God at Any School
There are churches and campus ministries at every school, and they are not hard to find. In fact, there are even more campus ministries at the larger state schools traditionally known as party schools (67 campus ministries at UT). These are the universities where campus ministries deploy most of their staff.
I am convinced, if a student wants to walk with the Lord, they can find Christian community to walk with. If they don’t, they won’t.
Parents, Its Up to You
I want to tred lightly here, but I do find comments of some well meaning parents disturbing. I am often contacted by Christian parents who are really worried about their kids walking away from the Lord if they attend UT. I always want to say, “Well then that’s your problem. You’ve had 18 years to speak into their lives. Your fear says more to me about you and your child than it does about the University of Texas.”
I know it is ultimately up to God (not parents) to preserve our faith. It just seems to me that kids whom God has ahold of before coming to UT will surely walk with Him when they are here and if not, they won’t (until one of our ministries reaches them that is).
If Not Now, When?
If college is not the time to “be in the world and not of it” (John 17:15-18), then I do not know when it is. What are you going to do after you receive your degree? Look for a Christian job? Live in a Christian apartment complex? College is the perfect time to learn to walk with the God among the diversity of lifestyles, faiths, and opinions. The university is the perfect place to learn to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:16) in a hostile environment. That is, after all, why Jesus left us here.
Standing Out or Blending In
It could be argued that many who go to more “Christian” schools actually end up just blending in and going through the motions. While it is the temptation at party schools to get involved in that scene, the temptation of “Christian” schools is to become lukewarm, if not hypocritical, or to continue the to isolate oneself in a Christian culture far removed from the people God has called us to minister to.
I have heard true stories about students at Baylor dressing up nice just to go to breakfast on Sunday morning so they have the appearance of going to church. My friends that graduated from Texas A&M joke about students spending all day in coffee houses debating Calvinism instead of actually making friends with lost students.
Both temptations are very real. I, however, much prefer to be in an environment where I standout, rather than blend in. Honestly, it is more fun and, I believe, more Biblical.
Justin Christopher is Campus Renewal Ministries’s National Campus Director and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.