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Q What is our role as parents in encouraging our college-age son’s faith formation? He is a freshman at a Christian college but does not attend church. How should we broach this topic with him?

A Thanks for this question. You are understandably concerned about your son’s spiritual life; the prospect of him walking away from his faith must cause you great sadness.

First of all, realize that attending church is not the same thing as faith. There are lots of factors that keep freshmen in bed on a Sunday morning. College students tend to stay up late, and weekends are no exception. Teens who were nudged out of bed by their parents on Sunday morning no longer have that incentive to get up. Since your son is at a Christian college, he will have other opportunities to hear about how God has a call on his life.

As a parent, there are things you can do. (1) Remember the previous 18 years. The faith-rich environment in which you raised him is not lost. It is still influencing him. (2) Recognize that it’s not all on your shoulders. There are lots of people who spoke into his life as he grew, and there are still people who do. His professors, student life leadership, and the college chaplain office include many people who are speaking to him about faith. (3) Lead by example. Your life will speak and has spoken louder than your words ever will. He sees that and will continue to see it. (4) Pray. Prayer is powerful and when we pray, God listens. Ask God to surround him with people who will support his faith walk. Take heart in the promises that you heard at his baptism. (5) Remind him—once!—of something that he already knows: that you wish he would go to church when he is at school.

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