Local leader meets the challenge college students face in intertwining their faith and their studies
WORDS // Mark Eckel WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM // G. Polly Jordan
Studies suggest that up to 75% of Christian students leave the Faith after attending public university. The reason for this tragic reality? Lack of personal, spiritual investment on campus with students. At Comenius Institute, we spend time with Christian young people in the university setting.
“I’ve never thought of that before!” This is the kind of statement I hear every week. At some point during any conversation, I will give a Christian answer to a question that college students have not considered, prompting this response. I meet one-on-one and in small groups with IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) students to discuss life: their questions, their academic disciplines and their vocational interests.
Comenius on campus extends into the classroom. One junior philanthropy student named Elizabeth, explains what sets Comenius apart: “A lot of other campus ministries focus on evangelism and community, which are really important aspects, but Mark is the only person I’ve found who intersects both what you’re doing as a student, which is really important, and then your faith, which is the most important thing.”
Another student pleads with her peers to attend a meeting so that they too can be confident in their ability to respond to the pressures and challenges associated with being a believer in an academically secular setting. Comenius seeks to help Christian college students find their academic, intellectual voice.
I also teach as an associate faculty member in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Being on campus throughout the week allows Christian care to be shown to students and faculty. Expanding respect for Christian thinking on campus is important. Building connections with university leaders opens opportunities for conversations about faith.
Community connections can also further advance Christian thought. Comenius sponsors the weekly Warp & Woof Radio Show that I host, which has been on the air for three years; it has a 150-show run, with over 200 guests. Christians who are “doing good” (Titus 3:1, 8, 14) are introduced to each other and the Indianapolis community at large. Discussions include social, political, cultural, educational and everyday human issues. Each episode is permeated with biblical thinking, no matter the subject. Through Comenius, I am able to connect with over 2,000 people each week through social media, writing, teaching, broadcasting and speaking. Broad discussions create intersections in the community and university.
The Comenius Institute is named for John Amos Comenius, a 17th century Moravian Pastor, educator and theologian. Comenius, still considered to be the father of education, believed that students should learn in the manner best suited for them. It is in that educational spirit that Comenius students find encouragement as they are given the tools to view their studies from a decidedly Christian perspective. My work through The Comenius Institute helps young college believers to think about anything from art to zoology through a biblical lens.
“Comenius has been a great help during my transition period from high school to college,” reflects senior law student, Kelsie. “Having a place to discuss absolutely anything has helped me to see the intersection of the ideas discussed in class, with my faith. Our discussions allow me to wrestle with points of conflict in a group setting. God is not absent on my campus.”
Mark Eckel (ThM, PhD) is founder and president of The Comenius Institute, a 501(c)(3) Christian Study Center on the campus of IUPUI. He also engages leaders in the Indianapolis area on a weekly radio show. He is the author of eight books and thousands of essays. Much of his writing and speaking can be accessed at www.warpandwoof.org. Find The Comenius Institute online: www.comeniusinstitute.org. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.