Curtis Harlow, leadership
development representative for the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries U.S.A.
office in Springfield, Mo., spoke with John Cockroft, staff writer,
about campus drinking. Chi Alpha is the missionary arm of the Assemblies
of God to the secular colleges and universities of America.
PE: How does Chi Alpha
address the subject of drinking?
We take on-campus drinking seriously while trying to avoid a
stereotype that all students are part of some "animal house."
The sad truth in America today is that every campus deals with alcohol
abuse. All of our leaders can tell stories of serious injury and
even death that occurred as a result of students drinking on campus.
However, drinking overall is down at most schools, and even secular
universities are starting to see that typical campus drinking parties
are bad for students. Chi Alpha tries to serve students and the
campus by giving a positive alternative to drinking and providing
clear answers to the complex questions students have about substance
PE: Why do so many
college students drink?
HARLOW: It is
about stress relief and the desire to be accepted. College students
are making the most important decisions of their lives. The pressure
to pay bills, form new relationships, succeed in the classroom and
ultimately sort out their basic worldview can place a heavy burden
Drinking also lowers
inhibition and in an artificial way facilitates relationships. It
provides a sort of social glue for young adults who are desperately
looking for a substitute family while they are at college. Thats
why its hard for even a Christian to resist the temptation
to go with the crowd to a frat party or be part of the gang drinking
beer in a dorm room.
These temptations are
compounded by the reality that drinking on campus has become a very
deeply ingrained tradition. Spring break trips have become an "alcohol
bath" and are seen by millions of students as a sort of rite
of passage. It is sad that even students who do not drink regularly
participate in spring break drunkenness as a part of their "college
PE: What are some
steps for college students to overcome alcohol addiction and/or
temptations related to it?
HARLOW: They must
find a source of peace that does not come from a can or a bottle.
The pressures of college only intensify after leaving school
resisting alcohol is all about finding a better way to deal with
stress. Thats why Chi Alpha emphasizes worship and prayer
in the midst of the campus environment. Students need to know they
can find Christians in the presence of Christ right where they live.
If we are successful at ushering in Gods presence, the peace
of Christ might become the next "drug of choice" on campus.
Students also need to
be proactive about establishing friendships and articulating exactly
what their values are before they go to college. Jesus sent His
disciples out with clear instructions and in groups of two. The
campus is a mission field and we need to send our students to campuses
with a lot of specific help on how to handle temptation. We need
to make sure they have other Christians with them as they go. Our
Web site, www.chialpha.com, lists schools that have a Chi Alpha
ministry and gives advice on how a student can begin to build relationships
with believers even before coming to campus.
PE: With what other
life issues does Chi Alpha help students?
HARLOW: The three
big issues are: What should I do with my life? Whom should I marry?
and What do I believe? How college students answer these questions
has a lifelong impact. Chi Alpha tries to provide not just cookie-cutter
answers to life issues but a relationship with God and His Word
that will produce a true disciple. If we can win over college students,
Chi Alpha will develop lifelong leaders.