Recently I had an opportunity to attend a conference at one of the schools in the Illinois State University system. The conference was very informative and what I learned should benefit IBSA churches. What I learned walking through the campus may have been an even greater education.
I always enjoy being on college campuses and find the atmosphere invigorating. It’s a world that’s insulated from the stressors of work, dedicated to learning, the exchange of ideas, and full of youthful energy. But as a Christian it seems less and less welcoming.
Posters on the walls of hallways advertised events featuring authors of books on “queer” studies and “Lavender Graduation” ceremonies which the Human Rights Campaign describes as “an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.” The ceremony was scheduled to take place in a
few weeks in one of the rooms where my conference was meeting.
Different offices bore rainbow colored stickers emblazoned with the words, “Safe Zone.” Generally, they denote places where students can “safely” approach those inside about LGBTQ issues. I wondered how welcome I would be to walk inside and discuss Christ.
Like many of us, I consider myself well-read and informed, believing I know what’s going on in our country and culture. However, the reality of the situation hit me like a slap across the face. This is what many students from our churches encounter on their public university campuses everyday. Their beliefs are not celebrated and most likely not welcomed.
We must encourage and disciple the young people in our churches. We must do the same for them on our college campuses, and our churches must reach out to those on the campuses who do not know Christ. The culture is leading the next generation away from Christ, and we must speak truth into that culture—the truth that is Christ.
Christian college students can’t do it alone. Remember yourself as a student and the pressures you faced. Those pressures have only multiplied. Our churches must stand alongside them.
During a break between sessions, I found my way to the restrooms—one marked “men” and another marked “women.” I couldn’t help but wonder who I might encounter inside.
Maybe our churches should put “Safe Zone” signs out front, safe to talk about Jesus! I do feel for the students. Pastors need to be keenly aware of what their grads are facing. Strong discipleship, good mentors, and apologetics are necessary.