When was the last time your entire life rhythm was turned upside down?
When you started primary school? When you graduated? When you had a baby? When you left your city job to become a pig farmer? There are very few times in life when the day-to-day pattern of life completely shifts. These shifts, it is widely acknowledged, can be times of real struggle in terms of faith. It is no surprise that when trying to juggle new eating, sleeping, working life rhythms, maintaining time with God, keeping your lifestyle in check and re-understanding God in your new world can all be rather hard.
I spoke to a youth worker of a big, youth-full church a few months back who admitted that in his five or six years there only a handful of the young, passionate Christians who left for uni were still engaged with church now. He was adamant that the drop outs aren’t only those who are just waiting to get out, but those who are leaving passionate and then fall away.
Just like having a baby, or retiring, going to university is a transition in which your whole life-rhythm is flipped upside down. When freshers arrive at university they have no prior experience of the culture, or the lifestyle. They may have drank a lot before, or had various relationships but the 24/7 rhythm of life at university is unique, and new. Many do not realise that when faced with a whole new rhythm of life, their rhythms of faith will need to adapt. This will need to be a time in which they engage with God in new, as well as old, ways. With bed times and wake-up times, and meal times and work days all different, the pattern of morning bible study, evening prayer and Sunday church are thrown up in the air. We need to prepare our young people to know that when life patterns shift, God is there amongst it and that pursuing him, intentionally, needs to be a foundation amidst the shifting sands. Many expect life to get back to a more normal pattern after a few weeks, and think they’ll get round to church once they have got to know people better. The reality is that life will remain erratic and spontaneous for most students, and that if God and church are to have a place in this new world, they’re going to have to make that happen.
Good habits will not be enough when our young people leave home. We need to help them realise why spending time with their bibles, in prayer, and as part of church are life-giving for Christians. They also need to know that this stuff will not always be easy, but that perseverance in faith leads to peace and hope and joy and seeing God.
Are your friends, or the young people you work with, ready for a new life rhythm? Are they determined to discover what life with God looks like in this new reality? Can I encourage you to grab a coffee with them and just ask them what their expectations of life with God in their new home are.