By Kristy Etheridge
Matthew Cook is a high school senior from Greensboro, N.C., who’s getting ready to make a big decision: where to go to college. His top choices are Appalachian State, Gardner-Webb and Campbell. His mother, Elizabeth, jokes about acquiring more gray hair every day her son doesn’t decide.
But Matthew will soon face bigger choices than figuring out which college has the best courses, scholarships and all-important dining hall food.
“Our kids are under fire,” Elizabeth said. “The statistics are so high—not only do they fall away from church when they go to college, but they fall away from Christ.”
That’s why the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove is hosting Christian apologist and youth worker Sean McDowell for a three-day seminar called The Cause: Strengthen Your Faith for College.
Listen here as Sean McDowell tells you what you can expect at this seminar.
Elizabeth spotted the event on the BGEA Facebook page and immediately signed up Matthew and one of his friends.
Matthew already has a solid faith foundation, thanks to his church emphasizing apologetics, especially among its youth. He’s excited to expand his knowledge before he heads to college—a known battleground where some professors and students push a humanist agenda on often-impressionable freshmen.
“There are people who are definitely gunning for us as Christians,” Matthew said. “They’re seeking to demolish the foundation that God has laid for us. I don’t see how you couldn’t be interested in apologetics. As Christians, we’re called to defend our faith.”
Sean McDowell says students, parents and pastors who attend July’s seminar will explore some of the toughest questions facing college students.
“Questions like, how do you know the Bible is true? How do you know God exists? Why would God allow such evil?” Sean said. “So if you’re a young person, come out. We will hang out and we’ll go deep and help prepare you.”
Will Graham, Executive Director at The Cove, says this seminar is a first for the Asheville, N.C. Bible training and retreat center.
“This will give college students a foundation on biblical truth, so they have a little bit of ammunition to defend themselves,” he said. “It’s good to be challenged in our faith, but we don’t want to discourage them, where they give up and say, ‘I don’t have an answer for this, so I’m leaving the church.’”
To make the seminar as affordable as possible, The Cove is offering free overnight lodging for all participants. They just need to pay the seminar fee of $229 per student or $279 per adult (including all teaching and meals). Pastors or youth leaders who bring four or more students are eligible to attend the seminar at no cost.
“When you’re a parent sending a kid off to college, finances are a concern,” Elizabeth said. “So the free lodging made it affordable.”
It was just a matter of carving out the time. With family, friends, church, basketball coaching and internships, Matthew’s schedule is packed. But he and his mom agreed the seminar was a priority.
“My children are mine,” Elizabeth said. “God gave them to me alone to instruct. When my kids go off to school, I want them to know who they are in Christ.”
While students who attend the event will be learning a lot, there will also be time to enjoy The Cove’s mountain views and 10 miles of hiking trails.
Matthew may be torn over which college to attend, but he knows a weekend at The Cove will prepare him for wherever he lands. And he hopes many more students will join him this summer.
“This one weekend could possibly make or break your college career.”
Click here to sign up or learn more about July’s seminar, The Cause: Strengthen Your Faith for College. The seminar is geared towards high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen. However, it is open to parents, youth leaders and anyone interested in strengthening and defending their faith.