Evangelical Christians attending secular colleges want more help in studying the Bible, and then in applying the Scripture to issues such as racial justice and climate change, a study released this week reveals.
According to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the largest college campus ministries in the U.S., addressing racial justice and climate change rank as the most important social issues for their survey participants.
The group has more than 1,100 chapters across the country, ranging from community colleges to Ivy League schools.
Following a year of pandemic-related disruption, the students said isolation, lack of community, and/or a lack of social interactions were cited as primary factors in a decline in student’s mental health.
The group said 47% of students reported that their mental and emotional health has been negatively affected as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 71% attributed this to isolation, lack of community, and/or a lack of social interactions, the survey indicated.
Despite the emotional challenges the pandemic presented, an InterVarsity official said these students still view understanding the Bible as their chief concern.
“I think the survey reinforces InterVarsity’s historic commitments around discipleship and evangelism. In the survey of Gen Z students, 60% of them [said] that the number one discipleship tool they wanted was help studying Scripture,” said Greg Jao, the group’s chief communications officer.
Mr. Jao said he was not surprised that 39% of InterVarsity-surveyed students want information and guidance on racial justice issues. He noted that 52% of college students are persons of color, making this the most ethnically diverse generation ever to attend college.
“I think their concerns around racial justice issues reflect the fact that they are the most diverse generation in history,” Mr. Jao said. “What they’re asking for, I believe, is, ‘Does the church have anything relevant and helpful to add to the conversation?’”
He added, “I think what students are longing for is a way of understanding how Scripture speaks to these issues. And I think they’re longing for churches that would help them understand that.”
Along with ranking racial justice as their top social issue, the students said they were concerned about climate change (29%), foster care, adoption, and orphan care (28%). Jobs and the economy (14%), immigration (10%) and serving refugees (8%) were ranked the lowest, the group stated.