Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.
One of my little brothers is graduating high school this year and has been trying to figure out which school to attend. I’ve been trying to persuade him to leave this small town and go experience college life somewhere else. I just heard from my Mom that he is planning on going to a small non-accredited bible college in California. Obviously I think this is a terrible idea, not only because I disagree with what they will be “teaching” him, but because it is such a waste of money and time.
I’ve always had a lot of hope for this brother, he is very open to discussions of faith, and he seems to be a lot more level headed than the rest of my family, even more than I was at his age. I can’t help but feel like my parents are pressuring him into this to try to keep him “walking with god” or something. When my wife and I have talked to him about these things he has expressed some doubts about religion. Because of this I think that with a persuasive enough argument he might change his mind. The thought of him spending 2 years at this “college” is just devastating to me, especially if it is mostly due to parental influence rather than his personal beliefs.
How can I get through to him and convince him that this is a terrible idea? He is such a bright/nice kid with a ton of potential and I would hate to see him waste it like this.
The main thing is to keep that dialogue with your brother open, positive and respectful. Your love for each other over your lifetimes is far more important than what classes he’ll be taking for the next two years, and is far more important than differing opinions about spooks in the sky. Don’t risk the treasure for the trifles.
If you want to persuade him to consider a different college, focus on the practicalities of his starting a career, rather than on your objections to reinforcing his religion.
A few people are able to get higher education for its own sake, but most people attend college for the purpose of starting a career. The often-asked question “What are you going to do with it?” usually refers to job prospects in a profession. Arm yourself with actual facts that you can show your brother, not just tell him. Help him to see that unless he is interested in entering the clergy, an unaccredited college of any kind will seriously limit his options. Professional positions that require college degrees almost always specify that they must be from accredited colleges or universities. If he starts there and then wants to continue studying at an accredited college, he might not get credit for his early classes and would have to restart from zero.
However, he might not yet know if he even wants a profession. For many young people, the first two years of college are more about learning about themselves than learning college subjects. Their self image begins to increase, and their concerns about pleasing their parents begin to diminish. They will often begin their studies with a major that is what their parents expect and approve, but after a year or two they will change their major to something that reflects their individual interest.
Find out if he is experiencing monetary pressure, not just emotional pressure to attend that Bible college. Your parents may have told him that they are not willing to fund his attending a secular college, or there might be other conditions they have laid out. If so, help him to be self-assured enough to negotiate with them about the practicalities of accredited vs. unaccredited colleges, rather than secular vs. religious colleges. It would probably be better that you not get directly involved in that discussion, but if you do, be very careful. Your parents might see you as butting in and wanting only to get your bother to stop “walking with God,” and they will become even more uncompromising.
Keep your remarks to him affirmative, asking him what he is for, rather than telling him what he should be against. Encourage him to be true to himself rather than telling him to resist the influence of your parents. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of your motive being more about your own conflict with your parents, and less about him finding whatever is best for him. Instead of countering their pressure with your own pressure, give him confidence that he can make his own decisions, find his own way, and build his own life. Be the person who has always been unconditional in your love and support, while others have been pushing their agendas.
Even if he ends up going to that school, don’t be too upset. If he is already openly expressing some doubts about religion to you and your wife, then I expect that living away from home and attending any college, even a Bible college, will tend to increase that doubt. That process might just be a little slower than at a secular college. Even if the classes he takes there will not count toward further education, it’s not all a waste. Along with the Bible, the English, the Math, and all the rest, he will be taking courses of study called “Who Am I 101,” and “Introduction to Real Life.” Those lessons are never a waste, and will always be applicable to anything he pursues.