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Religion: Christian in college

Leading youth groups and living the Christian life comes with pressures and rewards

 by Katie Kelberlau  published on Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pschycology junior Anthony Boyd is the president of The Rock at ASU, a Christian club that focuses on issues relevant to college age youth./issues/arts/692650
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Pschycology junior Anthony Boyd is the president of The Rock at ASU, a Christian club that focuses on issues relevant to college age youth.


For some college students, ordering a glass of wine at dinner is as natural as ordering dinner.

But for Daniel King, a Christian youth group leader and a preacher's son, it's more complicated. When he orders wine, he has to worry about someone from his youth group seeing him.

As a leader in his community, King -- like other students who become heavily involved in their places of worship -- faces formidable pressure to avoid the traditional pitfalls of college life, or even a glass of wine.

King, an economics and Spanish junior, says he lives with Christian principles, but everyone's interpretation of what those principles are is different.

"It is a concern that a kid could accuse you of doing something," he says. "Like if I go to dinner and have a glass of wine and a kid hears about it, and then it goes around that I was getting drunk."

King is a youth group leader for junior high and high school students at Desert Christian Fellowship in Phoenix, where his mother works, as well. His duties include Sunday morning and night, as well as Wednesday night sessions.

"It is really challenging because they [the kids] take everything at face value -- they don't get sarcasm or rhetorical questions," he says. "It is hard to watch what you are saying and try to keep them interested. Or else they just listen for five minutes and then space off to their boyfriend."

Junior high and high school is the time when most kids start really feeling social pressure. King, as a youth leader, feels the pressure to act as a role model and help his students work through their concerns. With his curly brown hair and friendly face, it is apparent why the students are comfortable with him.

He says that they usually approach him with questions about "their friend," as in, "my friend is thinking about having sex."

"Who knows if it is really their friend or not," King says, smiling. "Either way, we just tell them what the Bible says and that we love them anyway. We have to accept that the kids are living two different lives -- one in church and one everywhere else."

King holds occasional retreats and activities at his house and he always has to debate whether to hide any wine bottles or leave them out and use them to talk to his students about being responsible and living within the law.

King says he loves his job, despite worrying about parents, preparing lessons and dealing with challenging social issues. He says working in the youth group helps him remember what he believes and put it into words.

"The most important thing Christ wants is to love him and love other people. I really care about kids and enjoy working with them. I think I am doing what I was created to do," he says.

Getting to college students, however, takes different strategies than those employed by King.

Psychology junior Anthony Boyd is president of The Rock at ASU, a Christian club, and an active participant in their multiple online videos.

One video opens with a shot of toy dinosaurs and the question, "Ever wish you were bigger?" From there, it continues with shots of people getting punched and pummeled, until, finally, an image of the Bible appears on screen

"Trade that soft weapon in for a sword," the narrator booms. "The Holy Bible. Yours in only 40 payments of 172 scriptures. The Word of God. Get big."

He describes The Rock as a Christian Fellowship that exists to help college students deal with the typical pressures of college, including drinking and sex. They meet at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday in Murdoch 101, complete with a live band.

As a leader in a college-based organization, Boyd definitely does not have the same pressures as King. He says he does not really feel any pressure to be perfect -- he just tries to do his best.

King just started going to church a few years ago as a convert to the faith. He was not even looking for a religious group to join on campus, but randomly found The Rock.

"I don't remember the statistic -- and 51.2 percent of statistics are made up on the spot, so I won't do that here," he says with a chuckle. "But a really large percentage of people leave the faith when they come to college. We try to help people get plugged in and get support."

As president, Boyd occasionally speaks at the Thursday night meetings. Aside from doing all the paperwork for the club, he leads some cell group discussions.

Cell groups are small group meetings. The name derives from the concept that the Church is Jesus's body and the cells are part of the body. At the cell meetings, members get together and pray or talk about issues and pressures.

Boyd says that he and the other leaders try to follow the example Jesus gave when helping people deal with their problems on campus.

"Problems come from the source of living without God, so only by coming back to God can we be fulfilled at all. This is the starting point for helping people deal with pressures," he says.

He sees The Rock as being greatly beneficial to students, for whom traditional Sunday Church sermons say little that is relevant to their own lives. The Rock, he says, deals with college pressures and college issues.

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