Re­li­gious work­shop seeks to guide youth through col­lege

Sem­i­nar touts im­por­tance of re­li­gion for young adults

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JESSE YEAT­MAN jyeat­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JesseEn­tNews

Col­lege means young adults can make choices, some­times for the first time in their lives, on their own. Those choices could in­clude walk­ing away from their re­li­gion, some­thing that Kathy Barthelmes says could be detri­men­tal to their col­lege and life ex­pe­ri­ences.

Barthelmes said that a large num­ber of peo­ple step away from their faith dur­ing their early 20s, in­clud­ing while at col­lege. While some­times those peo­ple will come back to church later in life, she and oth­ers think it’s im­por­tant to main­tain those re­li­gious con­nec­tions dur­ing the par­tic­u­larly trans­for­ma­tive time of col­lege.

She is hop­ing to counter that trend by or­ga­niz­ing a work­shop that fo­cuses on the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing one’s spir­i­tu­al­ity and re­li­gion as young adults be­come more in­de­pen­dent at col­lege.

The pro­gram, called “Col­lege Life 101: An in­sider’s guide to spir­i­tual suc­cess af­ter high school,” will be held at Cor­ner­stone Pres­by­te­rian Church in Lex­ing­ton Park on Satur­day, Feb. 25, and fea­ture speaker Ben Burns of Cam­pus Cru­sade for Christ.

Draw­ing from years of ex­pe­ri­ence in con­duct­ing sem­i­nars and us­ing hu­mor and can­did talk, Burns will of­fer tips and tools to help the stu­dents keep in touch with their faith while at col­lege.

This will be the sec­ond time the church hosts Burns; the first was about eight years ago and was also spawned by Barthelmes as her old­est child was pre­par­ing to en­ter col­lege.

“Col­lege seemed like a pretty scary thing for me as a stay-at-home mom with young adults,” she said. She brought up her con­cerns with church lead­ers and they agreed to host the pro­gram.

“The event was piv­otal in giv­ing [her son] some tools to work with,” she said, adding that later in life he ac­knowl­edged just how valu­able the work­shop was for him.

Be­fore her mid­dle child went off to col­lege, the fam­ily timed a trip to Bos­ton to see the pro­gram.

This time, it’s her youngest, Kate Barthelmes, 17, who is get­ting ready to grad­u­ate high school.

Kate is a se­nior at St. Mary’s Ryken High School and said she ap­plied to two Chris­tian col­leges and five sec­u­lar schools, all of which have faith-based stu­dent groups.

She said it is im­por­tant to sur­round one­self with oth­ers who have re­li­gious faith “to help keep us ac­count­able.”

The se­nior has heard some talk about what col­lege can be like from mem­bers of the church’s youth group who come back and talk to the teens. She’s par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about what she calls “the big three” — sex, drugs and par­ty­ing.

“For me, I re­ally wanted to have a faith-based tool to ad­dress these,” is­sues, Kate Barthelmes said.

Just over half of Amer­i­can adults say they at­tend re­li­gious ser­vices reg­u­larly — at least once or twice a month, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter study from last year. Among those whose at­ten­dance has waned, the most com­monly of­fered rea­sons have to do with prac­ti­cal con­cerns, in­clud­ing many who say they are too busy to at­tend or cite other prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties with get­ting to a church or other house of wor­ship, ac­cord­ing to the study.

Es­rael Seyum is a co­or­dina- tor for In­ter­var­sity Chris­tian Fel­low­ship, a na­tional or­gani- za­tion that works on col­lege cam­puses to co­or­di­nate spir­i­tual re­la­tion­ships.

Seyum grad­u­ated from St. Mary’s Col­lege in 2009, and now works on that cam­pus as well as Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land cam­puses. He also at­tends Cor­ner­stone church with his fam­ily.

He said it is the daily re­al­ity on col­lege cam­puses that young adults do some­times step away from their faith, even those com­ing from strong faith-based back­grounds. There are dis­trac­tions on cam­pus, and some­times peo­ple will de­velop friend­ships with oth­ers who are not as re­li­gious ori­ented, he said.

Peo­ple who walk away from their faith of­ten are try­ing new things, he said, whether it is sports, aca­demic stud­ies or per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.

But, be­ing some­what in­de­pen­dent for the first time on a col­lege cam­pus can also give a stu­dent a chance to “start to own it,” and de­velop their faith with­out be­ing shep­herded by their par­ents.

“You’re able to re­ally hone in deeper to what you be­lieve,” Seyum said.

De­vel­op­ing re­li­gious fel­low- ship on cam­pus also can give stu­dents a sense of place in their com­mu­nity.

“I think it helps a lot in de­ci­sion mak­ing,” as well, he said. Hav­ing oth­ers to bounce ideas off of can help stu­dents de­cide both mi­nor dilem­mas and larger ones, like what sub­jects to study.

How­ever, there can be risks with be­ing in­volved in re­li­gious groups, he said. A stu­dent could feel iso­lated from the ma­jor­ity of other stu­dents at some cam­puses.

Also, stu­dents need to learn how to hold on to their faith while at the same time lis­ten and learn from oth­ers with­out that same faith, Seyum said. Oth­er­wise, they may feel threat­ened by peo­ple who don’t think the same way.

Luke Hoff­man, 17, a se­nior at Great Mills High School, this fall is plan­ning to at­tend Ju­ni­ata Col­lege, a small lib­eral arts in­sti­tu­tion in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“With all the de­ci­sion in front of you, I think it’s easy to get in the wrong group of peo­ple … and fall away from your faith,” Hoff­man said.

Both stu­dents said they have been invit­ing friends from their schools to at­tend, hop­ing to broaden at­ten­dance.

“It’ll be cool to have kids from dif­fer­ent churches here,” Hoff­man said.

Kate Barthelmes said that she has had con­ver­sa­tions with class­mates about the work­shop, and for the first time re­ally talked with them one-on-one about re­li­gious be­liefs.

“The peo­ple I’ve talked to have ac­tu­ally been pretty re­cep­tive to it,” the stu­dent said.

And, beyond en­abling young adults who are al­ready Chris­tian, the work­shop on Satur­day can also of­fer practi- cal knowl­edge for any­one go­ing off to col­lege, she said.

“He doesn’t make the as­sump­tion that any­one is Chris­tian at the con­fer­ence,” Kathy Barthelmes said, adding that Burns wants all young adults “to strive and suc­ceed no mat­ter where they are in their faith.”

“I’m pray­ing for 150 stu­dents to come out,” from around the re­gion, she said, adding that she in­ten­tion­ally sched­uled the talk on a week­end be­tween the win­ter and spring high school sport sched­ules.

Cor­ner­stone is part­ner­ing with Leonard­town Bap­tist Church, Re­deem­ing Grace Bap­tist Church and First Saints Com­mu­nity Church to help with lo­gis­tics and other as­pects of the pro­gram. Mem­bers of the CSM In­ter­var­sity Chris­tian Fel­low­ship have vol­un­teered to help set up the sanc­tu­ary at the church for the Satur­day work­shop.

Al­though the work­shop is six hours long, there will be breaks built in to give the kids time to stretch and get snacks and lunch, which will be do­nated by Chick-fil-A, Kathy Barthelmes said.

There will also be a free par­ent sem­i­nar on Fri­day, Feb. 24, the night be­fore the work­shop, from 7 to 9 p.m. Par­ents will be able to learn how to “walk along­side their youths” and sup­port them in the ma­jor life tran­si­tion as they en­ter col­lege, she said.

There is a $15 regis­tra­tion fee for the Satur­day work­shop, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.cor­ner­stonepca.org/#/bigevents.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JESSE YEAT­MAN

Luke Hoff­man, 17, left, and Kate Barthelmes, 17, plan to at­tend a sem­i­nar on Feb. 25 at Cor­ner­stone Pres­by­te­rian Church in Town Creek for high school stu­dents about the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing re­li­gious faith in col­lege.

Kate Barthelmes, 17, left, and Luke Hoff­man, 17, plan to at­tend a sem­i­nar on Feb. 25 for high school stu­dents about the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing re­li­gious faith in col­lege.

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