Vast Majority of US Teens to Attend College – What’s the Church Going to Do About It?

The Barna Group’s research continues to tell us a story – a story about the church’s need to respond to the call to responsibly shepherd older teens and college students.

Here’s an excerpt from a study released in May of last year outlining how a nationwide sample of older teens responded to the question, “What do you think your life will be like 10 years from now?”:

The most common aspirations of teenagers were related to college and their professional pursuits. Finishing a college degree was their top-rated future priority. A majority of teenagers felt certain that they would accomplish this goal by age 25. In all, 93% of teenagers said they would either definitely or probably obtain a college degree by their mid-twenties.

Add to this David Kinnaman’s comments from Barna’s latest study (a follow-up to the one done a year ago):

With the vast majority of teenagers hoping to experience and graduate from college someday (see previous Barna study on this subject), Kinnaman suggested that college and career decisions represent an important opportunity for faith leaders to influence students. “Today’s teens have huge aspirations in life and a great deal of self-confidence that is sometimes out of proportion with their abilities. Taught to believe they can accomplish anything at anytime, many young people figure if they see a problem or a need, they can just start a new company or nonprofit to address it. And armed with technology, some of them are actually doing that.

“Still, many young people do not seem to understand how a rich, historic understanding of the Christian faith and the gospel ought to inform their career aspirations,” Kinnaman continued. “And faith leaders are not as intentional as they could be with instruction and coaching on these types of decisions. Understanding how teenagers hope to spend their professional lives can help faith communities and institutions better support these students as they discern God’s calling in their lives.”

Kinnaman is right in saying youth leaders should do more to guide young people toward making career decisions and future plans through the lens of faith, but couldn’t one also say more attention should be paid to intentionally ministering to students while they’re actually in college?

The moral of the story this research tells certainly indicates more could and should be done – 93% of the young people in this country are going to go to college, and 100% of them need to know Jesus.

If you are one who agrees with that statement, let me ask this: what are you willing to do about it?

I have some suggestions – more on this soon.

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7 thoughts on “Vast Majority of US Teens to Attend College – What’s the Church Going to Do About It?

  1. Those statistics are staggering. Our churches definitely should be seeking how to minister to college students, to help them find their faith in Jesus and grow in their faith. Thank you Wes for sharing this and for your thoughts on the subject. God bless you, your family, and the work y’all are doing.

  2. Daniel W says:

    We should definitely be pushing to minister to college students. Take it from a new graduate student: the college years are most formative for a person’s faith. If any churches still hold the attitude that college students are bound to stray, but they will come back once they settle down with families need to drop that attitude. Nothing guarantees that a person lost in college will come back, or that they will come back because of a strong faith in Jesus rather than a social expectation (if they were raised in a conservative, nominally Christian household). What’s worse is ministering to college students requires a heart for the entire body of Christ and not just one’s local congregation. Therefore, many churches shy away from it. Churches know that college students are prone to wander from church to church, that they don’t give much (if any) money, and that they will leave the area in 4 years. A church has to accept that they are, in the long term, building up the universal body of Christ rather than their own individual congregation in order to embrace campus ministry.

    And another thing: if we are not willing to reach out to college students to fulfill their deepest longings and give them a higher purpose, others will. More and more, university students are becoming convinced that Jesus is one of many ways to salvation, Christians have caused more harm than good, and that evangelism is obsolete since religion is a preference and truth is relative. Deep down, however, I feel that these students are longing to be convinced that their is a truth. Can you think of a better truth than that the son of God, the creator of the universe, came to earth as a lowly servant in order to serve us and die for us, then was gloriously raised, defeating the power of death forever, and is now seated in heaven as the king of the entire universe, where he is waiting to rid the world of all injustice and pain? Who wouldn’t want to be convinced of that truth? What greater purpose is there than to be called to serve the most righteous giving Lord to help him wipe the tears from all eyes? I’m sorry, perhaps this is a bit of a rant. My point is, no one wants to be teetering on the edge of the epistemological abyss. These students feel that they must believe the secular humanist, relativist doctrines in vogue today because the proponents of these doctrines seem reasonable, are convincing, and are willing to give their time to students. Are we willing?

    So what am I going to do about this? I am going to partner with my local congregation to poor out love on those who are lost. Only when a student sees and feels the Spirit moving through a loving and devoted group of disciples will he or she be convinced of the overwhelming and ultimate truth of Jesus Christ. I also believe that the attitude toward and methods of evangelism promoted by Campus Ministry United ( are the most effective I have yet experienced, so I hope to copy that model wherever I go (I promise Wes did not pay me to write that).

  3. Tulsaoilman says:

    Daniel, If you need any help just contact us at It is our goal to reach all the college-age with the message of Christ.

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