College Students Seek to Maintain Spiritual Life

''Religious groups offer a safe place for student to practice God and put faith into action''
( [email protected] ) Aug 28, 2004 04:27 PM EDT

Christian and other various religious groups are actively making efforts to recruit new members as many universities across the nation are starting the new school year. According to the leaders of campus ministries, college students find it necessary to practice their faith by joining a student group respective to their religion in shaping their future.

A recent survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles this year reveals that religious groups on campus are finding a responsive study body. The survey which reflects responses from 3,680 undergraduates from 46 colleges across the nation found that among the respondents:

-78 percent said they discuss religion or spirituality with their friends

-77 percent said they pray

-73 percent said their spiritual or religious beliefs have helped them develop their identities

-70 percent attended religious services in the past year

-65 percent said they question their religious or spiritual beliefs at least occasionally

One student at WSU testified how the Christian fellowship that she is in has been guiding her spiritual life.

Kayleen Hallberg, 22, a member of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship said, "I was the typical college student: partying, once I got away from home." She added, “Chi Alpha gave me focus and direction. There's a lot of focus on character and integrity."

Rev. Gayla Rapp, who leads the Methodist student group, explained how religious groups offer a safe place for students to practice God’s standards and put faith into action.

"Students come to me and say, 'I don't drink alcohol, and I'm looking for a group of kids to hang out with where that's OK,' " she said.

"This ministry provides youth a way to stay connected," Rapp added, "We're fulfilling the vows we made to them at their baptisms to care for them."

College students often begin seeking and questioning matters of faith as they separate from their parents and evaluate their values and goals, said the Rev. Martha Sanchez, who leads Campus Ministries at Wichita State University, Kansas.

"They (students) need to be grounded in knowing they can survive the ups and downs," said Sanchez.

Across the US, there are many Christian groups run by college students. For example, there are about 25 Christian campus groups at Kansas State University whereas at University of California Berkeley there are more than 50 Christian groups, alone.

Meanwhile students are also taking actions to promote interfaith dialogue.

Muharrem Ali Tunc, a Muslim student at WSU who is leading the Inter-Faith Dialog Student Organization said, "Most of the time, the problems in the world come because of the people who don't understand each other. If people respect each other, the problems will diminish."