1. Building healthy relationships vs. blowing off steam.
  2. Athletics that build character vs. creating idols.
  3. Service as ministry vs. resume building.
  4. Spiritual community vs. individual exploration.
  5. Biblical standards vs. minimum standards.

It’s only natural to have a few questions about campus life before committing to a school. As an undergrad, it will be home for a few years. Even as a graduate student, campus culture will have an effect on your experience. How might your experience be unique at Christian colleges?

Are there parties, for example?

It’s a common question. The answer is … yes. And no. Yes, because there is nothing wrong with fun. Parties are not inherently sinful. At least, that’s the way administrators at Wesleyan colleges tend to see it.

The real question is about campus culture.

But in asking whether there are “parties,” there’s a good chance you have some images in your mind that would not be encouraged. It’s probably no surprise to you that Wesleyan schools don’t passively accept “party culture” as the norm. You don’t come to these schools for reckless escape every weekend.

Campus culture at Wesleyan colleges is focused in the opposite direction. Read on to discover five ways you’ll experience not escape from life, but meaningful engagement in life on these campuses.

1. Building healthy relationships vs. blowing off steam.

As a Christian attending a public university, one of Amy Nguyen’s greatest struggles was the party scene. She had been curious about it in high school. So, when she went to college she began to explore.

It wasn’t long before the culture she was dipping her toe into began to challenge her perception of self. She wrote the following in a 2016 article for Odyssey.com:

“Several aspects of [partying] made me anxious … I worried about approval from others (“Do these drunk college kids think I’m interesting?”) without ever considering the fact that God’s approval was what truly mattered. I also didn’t know how I was going to be a Christian if I couldn’t stay away from the big three things that come with partying: drinking, smoking, and sex.”

Amy found herself up against a culture that sought lesser things than what she found most important, her relationship with Christ. It wasn’t that the students around her were persecuting her for her faith; it was just that she found herself in a place where her faith seemed to matter less.

What matters the most in party culture is the opportunity for escape from the stress of life, to blow off steam. In many cases, students engage in dangerous behavior to accomplish that goal.

Is it healthy to take a break and de-stress? Of course! But a student culture that glorifies escape above engagement with that which matters most is not a healthy one.

The reason many Christian colleges – Wesleyan schools included – don’t allow alcohol consumption isn’t to restrict anyone’s freedom. Actually, the whole point is to free you from the influence of a culture that devalues what you desire most as a Christian.

The cultural goals at Christian colleges are often starkly different. Instead of plentiful opportunities to escape, you’ll find opportunities to engage with your fellow classmates in a fun, safe environment. You’ll be encouraged to build healthy relationships, make good memories, and grow in Christ together.

2. Athletics that build character vs. creating idols.

Another important aspect of campus life is the culture around athletics, and you’ll find this is another area where Christian colleges strive to keep the focus where it ought to be.

Perhaps you went to a public high school, or you’re a student at one now. What does it feel like when a star football or basketball player walks into the room? Does it seem like that athlete gets special treatment? 

And what about the school day after a winning game vs. a losing game? Does it have an impact on student morale?

These are signs that sports often have too much power over us. They, and the star athletes who play them, can often become idols that we find ourselves worshiping above God. And this effect can be far more powerful in the high-profile world of college sports.

Dr. David E. Prince, a professor and pastor, advocates for a Christ-centered approach to battle our tendency toward sports idolatry. He challenges Christians to:

    • Delight in the God-given talent of players whether they win or lose.
    • Behave in a way that honors Christ no matter how our favorite team is performing or what calls the referees are making.
    • Recognize sports as a metaphor for the self-sacrifice and self-discipline required to serve the Lord, and offer grace to players and coaches accordingly.

The alternative is what you often see in schools with huge sports programs that make superstars out of student-athletes. Players become commodities so important that some schools are willing to violate ethics rules to recruit them. Other students feel their lack of comparative worth and can grow resentful. 

The morale, and indeed the financial success, of the entire school rises and falls with the performance of this idol: sports.

Most Christian colleges are different. Wesleyan schools offer lots of exciting athletics programs: basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, cross country, hockey, and much more. But while we delight in the God-given talent of student athletes, our sense of self-worth doesn’t come from winning. 

It comes from knowing that we are made in the image of God, redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And that makes for an athletic culture that is more positive, forgiving and loving – but never any less determined – than any that belong to a “Big” conference.

3. Service as ministry vs. resume building.

Both party culture and sports idolatry are often associated (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) with “Greek” life. That is, fraternities and sororities. But organizations like these are actually meant to be far more service-oriented than the way they are often perceived.

So, why the misperception? On the one hand, you could argue that only the horror stories of death or injury as the result of initiation activities (“hazing”), or death from alcohol poisoning, or incidents of rape at Greek events make the national news. You could say that this skews the picture.

Indeed, Greek organizations (called that because they are often designated by Greek letters) often encourage their members to practice philanthropy. They promote awareness of issues like homelessness, hunger, terminal diseases and more.

But some members find that their fraternity or sorority doesn’t focus enough on service for its own sake. This is what Natalie Prieb wrote about her own sorority in an article for The GW Hatchet in 2017:

“Donating money is helpful, but it’s also important that students in Greek life participate in community service that benefits others more than it benefits themselves … it’s fair to argue that some members of sororities and fraternities attend philanthropy events just to have fun or take an Instagram photo without doing anything substantial.”

There is a difference between organizations that focus on service as ministry and those that offer service opportunities without stressing their importance. When the focus is in the wrong place – such as doing charity work just so you can look good doing it and put it on a resume – service can feel empty.

And it can also lead many to the conclusion that fraternities and sororities are just about partying.

This is why Wesleyan schools have alternatives to Greek organizations that offer plenty of opportunities to minister to the community around you both on and off campus. 

    • You may choose to join a club that focuses on engaging with community youth
    • Maybe you have a musical gift to share on a worship ministry team
    • You might serve international students by participating in multicultural activities. 

And if you have a gift for leadership, you might have opportunities to help create new service-oriented organizations as an officer in student government.

Whatever group or club you choose to join, campus culture at Wesleyan schools push the central focus always toward Jesus Christ. Service ought never to be an afterthought for us as Christians. It’s a way of life.

4. Spiritual community vs. individual exploration.

College should be a time of exploration, discovery, and growth. That’s something you should expect anywhere you go. The difference at Christian colleges is that spiritual development is not limited to wandering through a forest of ideas. It has a direction.

Communities can be built around virtually anything. Some have a unifying system of values and beliefs. Many universities are unique in that their unifying value systems promote universality – that is, the tendency toward acceptance of any and all ideas.

Some students come to college thinking it’s a place where they can finally do whatever they want, be whoever they want. That is basically true. The college experience offers you more freedom than you ever had as a teenager to decide who you are. To “find” yourself. 

And when you struggle to do it on your own, it can lead to a feeling of being lost.

That’s how Hannah Brit felt about her college experience, as she wrote for Odyssey.com in 2015.

“In college, I think a lot of people lose themselves. A lot of the times you lose yourself in a person, other times it is in a way of life. Most of the time, you don’t realize you’ve lost yourself until it is too late. God becomes irrelevant. Nothing seems to go as planned and you find yourself in a hole.”

Christian colleges offer more than an opportunity to get lost and find yourself wherever you choose to go. That is simply not the Christian idea of freedom.

Freedom in Christ is about discovering, and then continuing to explore, who we are in him. That is certainly something that can be done individually, in prayer and Bible study. But as Scripture teaches us, God’s idea of self-development is a process that has always been done in community.

Spiritual community – whether it’s in chapel, or discussion and biblical study in small groups – is central to the Christian college experience. At Wesleyan schools, you can expect not to be alone in your spiritual exploration. 

In community, your search for meaning will not be aimless. We move together toward something.

That something is the truth, hope and peace we can find in none other than Jesus Christ. Every one of our paths is unique, but at Christian colleges, we at least agree on the ultimate goal.

5. Biblical standards vs. minimum standards.

No matter what college students attend, they should expect a certain set of standards to be in place. Their college experience should be enriching. It should prepare them for their future career, of course. And they should feel safe on campus.

But Christian colleges have higher standards in place. Some of them are described above. Wesleyan schools strive to create an environment that:

    • Encourages healthy relationships.
    • Works against idolatry.
    • Facilitates meaningful ministry.
    • Provides spiritual community.

These are not worldly standards. In fact, most secular universities would probably consider them unrealistic, or even undesirable. They would likely prefer students handle these issues themselves.

But these are biblical standards. Beyond your rights to a good education in a safe environment, at Wesleyan schools you can expect to immerse yourself in a culture that strives to be ever more like Jesus. You should expect community that is healthy, ministry-minded and focused on Christ.

Fun, Growth and Transformative Discipleship on Wesleyan Campuses

Did we answer your question?

There may be parties to attend, but there’s also so much more to campus life at WE5 schools – the five colleges that adhere to the Christian values practiced by The Wesleyan Church.

If you are a Wesleyan, you can expect your college experience at any of these schools to feel like an extension of the love, support and mission of your home church. And even if you’re a follower of Christ from another tradition, you’ll recognize the student culture as one that keeps its focus on the Lord.

Follow the link below to resources that will help you take the next step toward an unforgettable, fun and Christ-centered college experience.

WHAT IS WE5?