Alex Chediak, Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith and Get Ready for the Real World! (Tyndale, 2011), 327 pages.
My interest in Alex Chediak’s new book, Thriving at College, is threefold. First, as a pastor, I view it as one of my pastoral responsibilities to help prepare our young people for what they will face in college. This book has the potential of assisting me in that ministry. Second, two of my three children are students at a secular college, with the third one on his way. Thankfully, both presently live at home, but as a parent I need to help my kids survive what could be a dangerous place and experience. Third, the author was an intern at our church a number of years ago. I won’t allow this last point to bias my review!
Alex Chediak is qualified to write this book. Not all that long ago he was a college student. Furthermore, he did not attend an evangelical bastion of truth; he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in material science and engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been active in college ministry and now teaches and ministers to college students at a Christian university.
The introduction does an excellent job of setting forth the crucial heart issues. It deals with two invisible companions all students bring to campus: worldview and character. There is a worldview competition, one governed by the cultural phenomenon of delayed adulthood and prolonged “adolescence.” The other worldview sees college as an opportunity to glorify God by loving him with your mind, working hard in your classes, and developing godly relationships. Both worldviews are directly connected with our character. Chediak demonstrates that how we think and who we are impact our attitude and our behavior. We are either fools and sluggards or wise.
In the remainder of the book, Chediak expounds foundational matters (chapters 1-2), significant relationships (3-5), issues of character (6-7) and academics (8-10). Each section revolves around the common mistakes that students make and a principle to remedy the mistake.
If I could suggest one area Alex could have developed it would be involvement and service in a local church during the college years. In a few places it is assumed or commended (e.g., 283-285). But having been a college and seminary student, I’ve watched firsthand students become “too busy” for church or substitute their campus ministry for church. Involvement in a healthy local church can be a refuge and a recharging station. I could also mention the need for accountability and opportunity to serve. I know Alex loves the local church, but maybe “Common Mistake: Bailing Out on Church” would be a helpful addition.
Alex’s experience as a student, a professor, and a serious student of God’s Word all converge and the end product is a practical book, full of wisdom and insight that can help guide a college student into a college career that glorifies God and maximizes their God-given potential. As the one who oversaw Alex’s internship at our church, I can honestly say that the work ethic that he propounds in this book is not only biblical; he also lives it out. He does not speak as a distant theoretician; he speaks as a consistent, faithful practitioner.
As I went through Alex’s book, I compiled a number of uses for it.
- Give a copy to each graduating high school senior in your church. Offer to pay their first semester’s tuition if they read it and write a report on it! (OK, maybe offer to take them to lunch instead.)
- Send it to the college kids in your church and encourage them to read it over winter, spring, or summer break.
- Use the book as a high school Bible study or Sunday school class. The discussion starters at the end of each chapter provide a good platform for group study.
- If you have kids, use it for family worship.
- Encourage parents to read the book so they can be equipped to help their kids thrive in college.
- Mark the book up and take notes that can be used for sermon application to young people.
Although there are many books that help equip Christian kids to defend and preserve their faith in college, this book is unique in that it equips the Christian young person to excel in college life spiritually, relationally, and academically. I plan on using it in our church for years to come. I trust that parents, pastors, youth leaders, and college students will also put this book to use. Those who take its counsel will really thrive at college.