Choosing Church in College
You’re immersed in Christian college–surrounded by Christian professors, Christian peers, the study of God’s word, weekly if not daily chapel services and education that is decidedly Christian. The argument could be made that church, in addition to this decidedly Christian cultural experience, is unnecessary. That’s why many Christian college students make jokes about attending “Bedside Baptist” and visiting “Pastor Pillow” each Sunday morning.
Why Church Matters. There is something unique about church that cannot be experienced by simply attending a Christian college. Though the connections made from living on a Christian campus are almost unmatched, there is a special fellowship found amongst the diversity of believers in a local church gathering that is irreplaceable and sacred. So why does church matter? Why not just skip out on church for a few years and join back in when I’m ready for “the real world?”
- You need a broader perspective. The church is not meant to be homogenous. It is at its healthiest when it is made up of a wide conglomeration of ages, races, socio-economic levels, personalities and backgrounds. Generally speaking, when you worship at your Christian campus you are worshiping with others who are much like when it comes to stage of life. Discipleship happens best when we are “in the rub” with other believers who are able to sharpen us the way one metal sharpens another. This happens particularly when those who are older and wiser offer us life perspective that is different from our own (Prov. 27:17; Titus 2:2-8).
- You are needed by the larger body. Additionally, when you commit yourself to a body of local believers, you are usually committing yourself to those who are younger than you– those who look up to you and to whom you can be a role model. The next generation needs your wisdom! Not only that, but the older generation needs your passion and energy. It’s possible to be an example to the entire body—old and young alike—when you plug in and serve meaningfully. You have gifts to offer the Church and the Body is incomplete without you (I Tim. 4:12; I Cor. 12:12-27).
- You are forming a foundation. It takes months to form a habit, but a relatively short time to become undisciplined. What you choose to do now is setting a course and trajectory for who you will become in the future. The writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” but to encourage one another “and all the more as you see the Day [of Christ’s return] approaching” (Heb. 10:25). Most Christian college students will say they plan to someday attend church with their spouse and children. Why not begin today to lay that foundation now, by building your life around the mission of Christ and His Church?
Finding a Church Home. Maybe you’re convinced. If so, then the next step is finding a place of worship that’s a good fit for you. This is most likely the first time in your life when choosing a church has been entirely up to you. It’s a challenging, but also exciting opportunity. Take your time, and enjoy the process. This is a chance to explore churches that are different in size, style or even denomination. There is a lot to be learned from this process! Some important questions to consider are: Is the worship Christ-centered (and not “me-centered”)? Is the teaching Biblical? Is the Gospel presented clearly and regularly? Do you feel welcomed into true community where you can be intimately known and cared for? (This is where size truly matters)! Are there opportunities for service and involvement that go beyond Sunday morning?
Being part of Christ’s Church after all, is about contributing not simply consuming. Ultimately, remember that no church is perfect, and our discipleship is furthered when we eventually stop “shopping” and make a church our “home.” Once you have explored your options, prayed and attended enough times to feel comfortable committing to your new community, don’t hesitate to jump in with both feet! A healthy local church will connect you with service and missions opportunities that go beyond the scope of even the most amazing Christian college. And at the core, this is why the church even exists—that we might live our lives intentionally, on mission in this world with Christ (Matt. 28:18).