Recently I was listening to a group of Christian young men who had just completed their first year in college. I heard statements like “eye-opening,” “they don’t teach you this in High School,” “I wish I could do the first semester over again,” “I did not know what I did not know.” What they were talking about had nothing to do with the academic side of being in college, but rather the assimilation into “college life.” Overall, the sentiment was “unprepared” to address the challenges of being a Christian man in this new environment.
The strange thing was that I know all these boys’ fathers well. I have heard the stories they tell, and the lessons they learned while they were in college (many moons ago). The wisdom they gained through first-hand experience lets call it. They all speak of the challenges they faced and how they learned over time to overcome these obstacles.
The problems seem to be centered in five areas:
1. Maintaining their Christian identity and making it their own
2. Resisting Temptation
3. Finding like-minded individuals including the right church
4. Time Management and where God fits
5. Embracing Diversity as a Christian would
What struck me about these challenges is that they are not limited to those we face just in college. For some, they may have shown up in high school or even after school in the workplace. As a father, husband, or leader, you’ll have to resist temptation, maintain your Christian identity, find time for God and more. What separated the people who struggled with these challenges and those who overcame them is preparation. It seemed like at some point in their life someone sat them down and said: “I have been there and know what you might be about ready to experience. Here are a few things I learned.”
Not in a preachy “oh Dad” kind of way, but rather a, “let me share some stories” sort of way. It is amazing how effective storytelling can be as a communication and learning tool. Through these stories, fathers can help plant the seed, so their sons begin to develop a plan for how they are going to deal with these challenges when they come. Call it preemptive strikes. Another dad called them “out-clause” – a way you are going to get out of a situation that you got yourself into. It does not matter what you call them, what matters is they have them.
Action steps for all men, whether in college or middle-aged.
1. Accept the fact that your faith will be tested!
2. Take the time to understand what you believe and what your values are.
3. Take responsibility for your personal choices and your faith.
4. Most importantly, develop a plan for how you are going react when you are faced with these new challenges.
Further than pouring out these stories on your soon-to-be college kids, consider how these five challenges show up in your life. These don’t just happen at your nearby college. These are the challenges of life for Christian men and women. Your faith will be tested. You will need to understand your beliefs and values. You’ll have to take full responsibility for the choices you make. You control how you react.
If you didn’t or don’t have a father you can learn from on earth, remember that you have a Heavenly Father who is more than willing to listen to life’s challenges. Pray to God and ask for wisdom.
Daniel 3:24-25: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
About the Author: Jeff VanDeVelde the CEO of Guiding Boys To Men.