Though many students drop out of church during the college years, a new study suggests their longing for meaning and purpose only intensifies.
Church attendance among participants in the UCLA study dropped from nearly 44 percent to about 25 percent between the students freshman and junior years. During that period, emotional distress deepened. The number of students who said, "My life is filled with stress and anxiety," shot up from 26 percent during the first year of college to more than 41 percent as a senior. The percentage that felt "overwhelmed" increased from 31.8 percent to 46.3 percent, while depression jumped from about 9 percent to more than 12 percent.
This was accompanied by an apparent rising interest in moral and spiritual matters. While 41.2 percent of first-year students in 2004 reported they considered developing a meaningful philosophy of life "very important" or "essential," in 2007 more than 55 percent agreed.
Additionally, the perceived importance of "integrating spirituality into my life" increased from 41.8 percent in 2004 to more than 50 percent in 2007, and the desire for "attaining inner harmony" climbed from 48.7 to 62.6.
"What I see in local Chi Alpha groups nationwide confirms the findings of the study," says Dennis Gaylor, Assemblies of God national director for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. "Students are hungry for dynamic worship, authentic relationships and vibrant spirituality. They want to make a difference in the world. Their life stage is ground zero for finding meaning and purpose and making decisions that will last a lifetime."
[For more information about Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, see http://www.chialpha.com/. Christina Quick, Today's Pentecostal Evangel .]