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Christian campus ministries report spike in interest as ‘lost’ Gen Z seeks meaning, guidance

‘These students are bucking trends and finding God against all the odds that the culture is putting against them’

A Christian revival last year at Asbury University in Kentucky that turned a simple chapel service into a weeks-long event may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Some campus groups say they are seeing a growing hunger for Christianity at colleges across the United States.

Campus Crusade for Christ, or Cru, an interdenominational Christian organization that works with students at 2,088 college campuses on a daily basis, told The College Fix it has seen growing interest in recent years.

“Every year for the past three years Cru has seen a higher percentage of students coming to faith when someone shares the gospel with them,” Dan Allan, executive director of mission expansion for Cru, told The Fix in an interview this month.

Allan shared a comment from one of Cru’s team leaders in New England who described students’ interest as “unprecedented,” adding, “We’ve seen greater growth in our Cru movement here than we’ve experienced in our 13 years here.”

Polls tend to show that Gen Z  — who today range from age 16 to 26 — is the least religious generation, with a 2022 American National Family Life Survey finding that 34 percent identify as “unaffiliated.”

Single-parent households and an increasing identification with the political left appear to be connected to the decline in religious attendance, as members within those two groups report significantly less religious attendance than their counterparts.

Marlo Slayback, national director of student programs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, told The Fix that students are desperately seeking guidance in life. Though not a religious organization, the institute works to cultivate traditional American principles and virtues among college students, and Slayback, a Christian, said she works with students from a wide range of faith backgrounds.

“What has changed, I think, is the culture surrounding Gen Z. It’s a recipe for despair, hopelessness, nihilism, disaffection, alienation,” Slayback told The Fix. “They look around at our decaying culture and understandably feel alienated and lost at sea. Passive parenting and a lack of role models who exemplify an unequivocal virtue are partially to blame.”

She said many students she interacts with crave traditional Christianity, which provides the guidance and structure that they have lacked.

Some are acting on that desire at major colleges like Auburn University in Alabama, where a Unite Auburn event was hosted in September. In one night, more than 200 students were baptized after a time of worship and sermons, Fox News reported at the time.

Meanwhile, at Texas A&M, Life Church, a Protestant ministry, saw thousands of people and students attend their annual outreach in September, according to Decision Magazine.

Catholic student ministries also are “flourishing” on campuses across the country, with some “so successful that they’re expanding their facilities to better meet student demand,” the National Catholic Register reported in the fall.

On social media in January, Christians also drew hope from news of a full 500-seat class at the University of Notre Dame about early Christian theologian Augustine. The class focuses on the bishop’s “Confessions,” an autobiographical and theological work widely considered to be one of the most influential pieces of Christian literature in history.

Slayback, when asked if talk about a Christian revival among college students is just wishful thinking, told The Fix there are reasons to hope.

“I’m a Christian so of course I have hope, but I’m also a realist and I realize we live in a post-Christian society,” she said. “What gives me hope, though, is these students are bucking trends and finding God against all the odds that the culture is putting against them.”

Slayback said: “Widespread pornography, addiction, public vulgarity, and abortion are rife and this is all compounded by the general lack of quality friendships and role models students have today.

“But the students who are opening their hearts to God are doing it against immense pressure and friction, and this fortitude is also the quality of great leaders whose courage and faith motivate them to do great things,” she said.

MORE: ‘Faithful Catholic colleges’ see enrollment boom

IMAGE: Asbury Revival prayer church worship/YouTube screenshot

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Brayden Dean is a student at The University of Georgia pursuing a double major in political science and international affairs. Brayden is editor-in-chief at The Broad St. Journal at his campus. He has also written for the Washington Examiner and The American Spectator.