Long answer short: absolutely. Choosing a church while you’re attending college can be tough, though. After all, if you’ve attended the same church with your family for your entire life, you may not have expected that you would be responsible for choosing a new community of believers to worship God with.
Many students who attend a Christian college or university also have a myriad of Bible classes to take, as well as Chapel attendance requirements to fulfill. It can be easy to consider all that biblical knowledge as a substitute for Sunday morning service, but there are definitely benefits to getting out there and attending an actual church.
The key is to not get stuck in the cycle of legalism that many college students find themselves facing. You shouldn’t attend church simply because someone tells you should or because it’s what’s expected of you. Attending church with that mindset can easily become pharisaical. Hebrews 10:25 encourages gathering together, and there’s reason behind this: God knew it would be a healthy thing for His people to do. Consider the list below as you contemplate what attending church in college looks like for you:
1. Are there opportunities for community?
Many people today understand “church” as the building, but biblically, the word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you’re considering what church you should attend, make sure that there are opportunities to connect with other believers in Christ and experience those “body” principles. Do you feel comfortable there? Were you welcomed? Can you join a small group and get to know people on a more personal level? Remember, it takes time to get to know people, so don’t panic if the relationships don’t immediately feel natural—that will come eventually.
2. Is the theology on point?
There is certainly a variety of beliefs between different denominations, but there are some foundational truths that you can consider as must-haves for the church you select. Do they believe Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross for the sins of man and that is how one is saved? Is the teaching biblical and is Christ’s headship declared as authority in all matters? Is the Bible—God’s only truth—taken as such regarding all matters?
Once these fundamental truths are set, consider the other doctrinal truths the church has in place. Most churches have a website or literature written about their main beliefs. After that, he rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal preference. However, be careful not to get too caught up on these “preferences”
3. Don’t shop forever. No church is perfect.
It can be really easy to get nit-picky about the church you want to eventually call home. You may not be satisfied with the worship at one church, or you may not like the preaching style at another church, or the way the light glares through the stained glass window right into your eye at 10:00 a.m. might bother you at another church. The possibilities for disappointment are endless.
Remember that no church is perfect, and at best, it’s filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are continually at war. If you find that it’s easy for you to pick out what’s wrong at each and every church you try out, and it’s holding you back from actually settling into a church, consider that a church community can and should provide resources to help you pursue spiritual growth, but it’s your responsibility to actively take advantage of those resources.
Church isn’t a requirement. No one will strike you down if you don’t attend. On the flip side, it’s a privilege and an opportunity to grow closer to Christ and His church, learn about the Lord’s character, and pour into others as well.
Make sure you’re consulting God about your church decision too. Pray for His guidance in ushering you through the decision-making process. If you’re still having trouble choosing a church to call home, consult wise counsel and bounce your concerns off someone you trust. Get plugged in as soon as you can—there’s a lot of growth and discipleship that can naturally happen when you’re actively attending church.