Grant encourages church discipleship

Research begins on students’ engagement with the local church.


Rebecca Mitchell/THE CHIMES

Rebecca Mitchell, Writer

Spiritual Development began researching students’ involvement in the local church at the beginning of March after receiving a $100,000 grant from the Looper Family Foundation in January.

The local church

“The grant is to catalyze undergraduate involvement in the local church because we believe that is an important arena for discipleship and because, of course, that will be the spiritual home for our students… after they leave Biola. And so we want to encourage them to make that a spiritual home while they’re at Biola,” said Todd Pickett, dean of Spiritual Development.

Overall, the grant contributes to three sections: research on the problem of the lack of student involvement in the church, understanding the obstacles to involvement and, finally, forming pathways, in which students can value the local church and connect with churches, according to Pickett. Within the research section, developer for the project Brian Wilson hopes to include Biola’s institution, students and local churches.

“There’s three areas that I think need to be looked at in terms of student engagement, obstacles and opportunities. For me that is Biola as an institution, the student community and the local church. Because all three play a part, I’m sure, in being both obstacles and opportunities to engagement,” Wilson said.

Young adult disgengagement

While research on this specific topic has just begun on Biola’s campus, Wilson has found statistics from other organizations such as Barna that include possibly alarming facts. One such study shows 59 percent of young adults raised in a Christian home disengage from the church after age 15 for a significant time or forever.

“I would say that I have some deep concerns about how the church is viewed by young adults today. Even that needs to be nuanced because… I don’t think it’s fair just for people of my generation to point to particular millennials and say ‘This is a millennial thing.’ No, it’s not,” Wilson said. “This is a parental problem, and often a church problem in terms of how young people today have been raised and the value of being committed to and participating within your local church community.”

Chapel or church

Wilson hopes students will engage with the local church beyond only attending services and that churches will bless students as they serve. Andrew Morgan, sophomore Bible major and South Horton senator who works with Spiritual Development, also believes students need to engage with the local church and understand the importance of doing so.

“I don’t think it’s so much how they’re involved in the local church, but if they’re involved in the local church… I think that those students that have that serious understanding of church life and coming together before God, that is reflected in the chapel setting as well as the local church,” Morgan said. “And so it’s not so much getting them involved in different ways in the local church, but communicating to the greater Biola, ‘Hey, this is something we all need to take seriously whether it’s in chapel or in the local church.’”

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