Issue of Religion and Decision in College

Decision-making can be difficult because students have many choices, according to Horton (2009). Because it can be difficult the students are left feeling overwhelmed and confused. Christian students desire to be in the will of God when making tough choices, as it can relate to the school they choose to attend, what they decide to study and what they chose as a career. Garry Friesen came up with different ways to help a person discern what the will of God is for his/her life.

This was written about in his book Decision Making and the Will of God (Horton, 2009). The first approach addressed to help students with decision-making and discernment is called the bull’s-eye approach. The second approach addressed to help students with decision-making and discernment is called the wisdom approach. Within the wisdom approach their is the biblical wisdom approach and pragmatic wisdom approach. The last approach is called the spiritual formation approach (Horton, 2009).

“One of the more popular approaches, the bull’s eye approach theorizes that God has a perfect detailed plan for all individuals and seeks to reveal that plan to them” (Horton, 2009).

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This method for discerning God’s plan is also called the traditional view. With this approach, God wants for Christians to be in his perfect plan. God shows Christians this perfect will through prayer, as he guides them to make the right choices (Horton, 2009). When Christians pray, they receive answers through having an inner peace from the Holy Ghost or signs. Therefore, the bull’s eye approach operates as a spiritual GPS (Horton, 2009).

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In contrast, the biblical wisdom approach looks to the bible as the guide and proper choices (Horton, 2009). Those who choose the biblical wisdom approach, discern what choices to make by reasoning, receiving sound counsel, strengths, capabilities and talents. Those who believe in the biblical wisdom approach believe the God has a plan for everyone but that God does not show everyone his plan.

Those adhering to a pragmatic wisdom approach believe in discerning what choices to make by reasoning, common sense, sound counsel, strengths and talents (Horton, 2009). The bible does aid those in the pragmatic approaches’ camp’s choices, but it is secondary to these other values. Those in the biblical wisdom approach place importance in gaining directions from specific bible verses and commandments; whereas, pragmatic values of common sense, reasoning, talents, and strengths. Thirdly, relationship formation proponents, say the God may not have a specific plan for everyones life, but God is active in everyones life (Horton, 2009). These people believe that God gives a person freedom to choose their career path because he does not have a specific plan for everyone. However, in order to make the proper decision you have to have a relationship with God. The bible is an important aspect of this, but God is most concern when a Christian grows and matures, taking his/her own responsibility.

Survey Findings

After taking the Decision-Making Factors Survey, the belief and values that I found more important to me were consulting the bible, praying for wisdom to make Godly decisions having inner peace from the Holy Spirit (Horton, 2009). These are the areas that I marked as important. Other areas I marked important is discerning decisions were common sense, abilities, and strengths. My personal desires and interests were also marked important, as well as looking for and identifying opportunities to serve others. I find that personal desire and interest are important when making decisions because without desire you might end up doing something you do not really like. I find it only somewhat important to have specific detailed guidance in prayer from God as well as signs of confirmation from God. I am not saying I do not pray and listen to Gods answers in my prayer. I just sometimes have a hard time finding signs that God wants me to see. I know God has a path for me and I just need to trust in him to lead me to that path.

Where I place myself

Based upon my answers to the questions in the survey, I would say I best fit in between bible wisdom approach, and the relationship formation approach. This is because using scripture and commandments from the bible are important along with prayers in making choices but I am not relying on them as a spiritual GPS, as in the bull’s eye approach (Horton, 2009). I am relying on them to have guidance from God, but not necessarily a detailed predetermined formula, as would be for those who believe in the in bull’s eye approach. Talents, common sense, abilities, and wise counsel are also important. I however do not put those above the importance of the bible like the pragmatic wisdom approach do (Horton, 2009). I place more importance on bible scripture and commandment than I do on my strengths, reasoning, abilities and talents. I would also identify with the spiritual formation approach, too. I rely on prayer and bible guidance from God, and I do believe God will reveal His plan as some in the biblical approach do (Horton, 2009). I view my bible prayers and readings as a way to develop a relationship with God and communicate with him and also become more Christ like. This also fits in the category of what Horton (2009) called relationship formation. I can learn to take responsibilities for my choices and make Christ centered choices. I believe God gives us freedom to make choices, like a parent who is teaching their children to make responsible choices. We guide our children, but we do not make every choice for them. We give them the freedom to make some choices. They will learn how to make responsible choices through their actions. I also see bible reading and prayer as a way to develop what McMinn (2011) calls Spiritual formation. “With spiritual formation, we are developing ourselves spiritually, getting to know God as our father, Jesus and the Holy Spirt. We do this through prayer, readings, fasting, and worship” (McMinn, 2011). McMinn (2011) stated that this makes us spiritually mature and more Christ like. I will look for more opportunities to serve and love others, and become more Christ like. These are all things that would seem to be characteristics of relationship formation (Horton, 2009).

Past and Present Information

Factors that Influence my Spiritual Discernment

“A past factor that influences upon my discernment was my worldview or how I perceived the world I live in” (Entwistle, 2010). Before I started to really believe in God and reading the bible, I believed in only physical things that I could see and that had nothing related to knowing God or discerning his will for my life. Therefore, I only relied on factors that Horton discussed like talents, abilities, common sense, and strengths. We were given assessments in high school to determine what our talents were. I also knew I excelled in Math and I enjoyed the subject. It was not until I attended college and started to go to church, not because my parents told me I had to go, but because I wanted to go, that I started to develop a relationship with God. The more I attended church, the more I grew closer to God and wanted to build a relationship with him. When attended college I felt the Holy Spirit leading me into a path that had me working with children. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Education in 2014. I am currently a teacher but have always felt like God wanted more from me. I decided to start back to school in the counseling program. I am looking forward to serving others and having God by my side.

Family Heritage and how that Impacts Personal Religious Beliefs

From the time I was born my parents had me going to church. I was raised Episcopal. We went to church every Sunday at 8:30. When I was in middle school I was an acolyte. I knew who God was but I never fully developed a relationship with him until later in my life. My parents were not ones who would read the bible to me or talk about their relationship with God. All I knew is that we went to church on Sunday and that was all we ever talked about God. We would occasionally pray together but we would say the Lords Prayer. We never prayed and just talked to God. I never read the bible or had any interest in the bible growing up. My parents were more concerned with my school and grades.

Once I went off to school I felt like I was missing something in my life. My first year of college I did not attend church like I should have. It was not until I moved into a house that was literally across the street from a church. I started attending church every Sunday and really wanted to develop a relationship with God. My roommate, which was also my cousin, and I started having bible studies and we would pray together. It was in college that I met my husband. He was also not very religious. I started taking him to church with me. We have now been together 8 years and we still attend church every Sunday and continue to read the scripture from God.

As a parent to a little boy, I want my little boy to develop a relationship with God at a younger age than I was. I want him to be able to talk with me about God and we can have an open relationship when it comes to discussing God. Everybody’s upbringing as a child can shape their personal beliefs with God. This is why it is important to me that my child knows God and has a relationship with him.

Practical Application

My Personal Reaction

A college student is seeking career counseling. She is having trouble deciding on a major. She is afraid she will not be in the will of God. After she completes the Decision-Making Survey, it is apparent that she falls within the bull’s-eye approach to discernment. This is different from my own. She believes that God has a more specific detailed plan for her life. She also probably believes that her prayer life functions as a spiritual GPS, and this directs the path she should take, as God reveals his plan to her in prayer. I of course would remain calm and composed when helping this student. I would also react by placing her desired method of discernment ahead of how I discern God. “Building rapport with her would be a key factor” (Adams & Paxton, 2011). This way she will trust me and know I have her best interest at heart. “My body language would be to make eye contact with talking to her, and smile while leaning forward” (Thomas & Sosin, 2011). When building rapport, I will try my best to be empathic and have unconditional positive regard for my client and her preferred approach.

Personal Position’s Influence

My personal position of being partially wisdom approach, with biblical influence, would influence me to want to include assessments to determine her strengths, talents, and gifting. However, I would counterbalance these with prayer. This way, she will feel well about her choices. I would also include some scriptures from the bible that she can pray about because of my biblical approach. I do not think she will mind this because she believes in prayer and guidance from God. As far as the relationship formation approach I would want to see how her relationship with God is through prayer, and not just how her plans fall into God’s will for her life. I would probably be doing all that to myself, and not really tell her what I was doing. I would like to build a relationship with the students so that she feels comfortable talking with me about her relationship with God and expressing her concerns. I would continue to give her scriptures for her to pray about. This can fall under her bull’s-eye approach.

Strategies Used

After I have built rapport and she trust me, I would make her way of discernment a priority, and not be biased to my different approaches. Therefore, I would give her exercises in prayer outside of the sessions, so she can confirm with God what career path she would take and feel inner peace. I will also practice active listening, so she can feel like she is being heard because this is important in counseling, so what she wants and prefers gets honored over what I want. Ultimately my goal is to make the student feel happy with their choice. “Some active listening skills counselors use are summating, and open-ended questions” (Adams & Paxton, 2011). This way she will feel heard and trusted. I would ask her to describe her family history and how she typically makes decisions to see if she needed guidance on making the right decision. I would give her different assessments that will determine her strengths and talents. I would pray with her about these assessments and have her talk with God about what the assessments determined. That way she can see her results from the assessments but also is still communicating with God about her results and her decision on a career path. “These assessments will also help her to explore the career options she has” (Niles &Harris-Bowlsbey, 2013).

In closing, in career counseling it is important that I look at my clients worldview because that is how they attach meaning to the world, and how their discernment approach is formed. It is essential that I do not judge someone because of their approach or beliefs or try to impose my approach onto them. I will create an atmosphere of trust, and collaboratively work with them, and include prayer along with assessment to guide the clients career choice. Above all I will want to convey the love of Jesus because this is keeping with values from portion of me that is relationship formation. However, it is more importantly, living out loving others as Christ loved us.

I now have learned there are 2 main approaches to discernment, and a third additional one. Even though decision making can be tough, these discernment approaches can be helpful when trying to help a Christian client navigate their way to a career choice. This will allow clients to not become overwhelmed with choices, or stuck in their decision-making process.

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Issue of Religion and Decision in College. (2021, Oct 04). Retrieved from

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