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The Attrition of Christian Youth from Faith at University

Wednesday 21st April 2021

Attempts to quantify the attrition rate from faith during undergraduate years of those who leave school ostensibly as Christians put the figure at an alarming 70-75%. Why is this, and what can be done to slow, if not stem the tide?

The loss of what has appeared to be promising faith can be viewed through the prism of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8). The Christian seed fails to take root as it collapses in the face of opposition, or is displaced by hedonism, consumerism, career advancement, distraction by growing adult responsibilities or peer group pressure. The intellectual onslaught against, or belittlement or exclusion of faith in the tertiary sphere can be strident. The allure of sex, materialism and lifestyle can be powerful.

What can Christian schools and churches do to future-proof and case-harden emerging adults as they transition into university years?

Garber (2007) argues that young people at this flexion point need assistance to develop a comprehensive Christian world which is sufficiently robust to navigate challenges, a committed mature mentor who embodies and faithfully lives such a world view, and a strong Christian community which gives plausibility to such a commitment. They need to deepen their knowledge and application of faith to parallel the sophistication of their university studies if they are to avoid a cognitive dissonance which will make their faith seem infantile. To this might be added adequate grounding in Christian apologetics.

Failure by schools and churches to strategise in this area will see the attrition continue, and even worsen.

John Collier

Dean of Education Designate, Morling College

Written by Dr John Collier

John is the Dean of Education Designate, Morling Colleg; Head, St Andrew’s Cathedral School; Head, St Andrew’s Cathedral Gawura (Indigenous) School John has been Head of these two schools for 12 years and, prior to that, was Principal of a multi denominational Christian School and a Government School, ranging over 31 years of Principalship. He is Chair of the Anglican Education Commission and a member of the Synod of the Sydney Diocese, a Lay Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral, a recent past Chair of AHISA (NSW/ACT) and a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators and the Australian Council for Educational Leaders. For seven years, he Chaired the Academic Committee of AHISA (NSW/ACT), which dealt extensively with the state curriculum authority. He is a past recipient of the Alan Laughlin Perpetual Award, an Australian College of Educators recognition for outstanding educational leadership and the Principals Australia Institute John Laing Professional Development Award. In 2018, he was awarded the Sir Harold Wyndham Medal for educational leadership, by the Australian College of Educators. He is immediate past Chair of the Independent Sporting Association and immediate past Chair of the International Baccalaureate Heads’ Association (NSW/ACT). His doctoral studies were in Christian Education, Leadership and the Development of Culture and Ethos and his book Teaching Well: Insights for Educators in Christian Schools and Better Learning: Trajectories for Christian Educators, are used widely in Anglican Schools. In 2018, his book Pupils, Pimples and Parents : being a prophetic voice to the community as Head of School, was published and widely acquired by NSW Principals.

Dr John Collier's Blog