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Spiritual Support System
Going to college often means leaving behind your hometown, parents, friends, and church. It can mean starting from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, a fresh start can be great! New friends, new opportunities, exciting new environments—all good things. But it also means you have to build a new spiritual support system.
At home, your spiritual support system was set, with the friends that you had, the church that your family went to, and your family members close by. Those people are still in your life, of course, and you can still bring your concerns to them and encourage each other, however, they won’t be able to be there in person with you all the time.
With all the new-ness and change that comes with college, it’s important to have a spiritual support system with people who can be there for you in person or be a place to physically take refuge.
Why it Matters
College brings a lot of growth and expansion, but it is also full of challenges, which can take a toll on us, leave us discouraged, or influence us poorly. It is no secret that college is a time of testing for a lot of Christians.
Building a spiritual support system in college can be uncomfortable, especially at first. It requires a lot of intentionality, but it is so worth it when the people we surround ourselves with build us up and trust us to do the same for them. The friends that we make and the people that we allow to speak into our lives are often the ones we turn to for advice and the ones whose behavior we imitate.
Seeking out biblical friendship is vital in building a spiritual support system. Biblical friendships are ones where you are able to encourage each other in your pursuit of God, you hold each other accountable in obedience to God’s word, and you are there for each other in all seasons, practicing Godly love towards each other at every turn.
The Lord provides us with plenty of examples of biblical friendship in the Bible. Proverbs 27:5-6 says:
“5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (NIV)
Biblical friends will tell you truth, will tell you when you’ve done something wrong, and sometimes it’ll hurt to be held accountable. They won’t condone sin, and they won’t always tell you what you want to hear, but it’s important to remember that this honesty between friends is a gift.
We can’t always be objective about our actions. Friends who tell us when we’ve made a mistake and help get us back on track are a blessing. They want to see you thrive, and that comes from closeness and obedience to God. Proverbs 27:17 explains Biblical friendship well, saying:
“17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)
Biblical friendships encourage us and lead us toward God, not toward sin or the world. This isn’t to say that we can’t have friends who aren’t Christian. Part of loving our neighbors is going out into the world and showing kindness and grace to those we don’t always agree with. Often that leads to friendships.
However, we need to be mindful of the influence that we allow from friends that are not Christian. Their actions and behaviors may not be in line with Biblical obedience or honor God, and we need to set clear boundaries about the sort of activities we are okay with. It’s okay if they don’t invite you to some things because of those boundaries, and it’s okay for you to say no to them if they want to do stuff that violates those boundaries.
If a friend cannot respect your boundaries, they are not a friend at all. That said, it’s not a bad thing to have non-Christian friends, especially if you can be a reflection of God’s love in their lives. But you need to keep a spiritual support system intact for yourself, be that biblical friendships, mentors, or pastors that you can go to for guidance, encouragement, or refuge.
Where to Look
So where do we go to build this spiritual support system? Where can we find Christians just like us to build biblical friendships with? If you are planning to go to a Christian college, then ideally you would be able to find them anywhere on campus, but that isn’t always accurate. Not to worry, there are many places that we can find others seeking to build a spiritual support system, here are just a few:
This may seem obvious, but it’s probably one of the best places to look. Find a church near your college and one whose teaching is biblically sound. Most churches have some sort of bible study available for college-age adults. Also, consider getting involved at church/volunteering in some way as that means spending time with other believers and getting to know them through service.
Church is a great place to make friends, find mentors, and maybe even get to know the pastor and their family. Church can also provide opportunities like ministry or mission trips, which are fantastic avenues for the formation of biblical friendships.
Campus Ministries/Cru/Every Student Sent
Most colleges, Christian or secular, will have some sort of campus ministries department or a branch of Campus Crusades for Christ nearby. Talk to your school’s campus ministries department (if they have one) and find out what bible studies or events that they have, or even get involved/volunteer to help. Often the events are put on by students, which means partnering with other students and getting to know them.
Campus Crusades for Christ offers all sorts of ways to deepen your relationship with Christ and get involved with groups, mission trips, and the like. Use their search tool to see if they have a branch operating at your school or near it and find out what ways you can get involved or what opportunities they have for groups/bible studies.
Every Student Sent is a ministry that connects students with existing ministries, churches, and other students looking for community in the area that students will be attending. Signing up for Every Student Sent is free and provides great opportunities for building biblical friendships.
InterVarsity is a community of college students pursuing God. On their website, you can search for your school/location and find branches/communities near you. They have groups for bible studies, worships services, and even sororities/fraternities that focus on spiritual growth through scripture and community. Joining a group through InterVarsity is a great way to build a spiritual support system.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)
This one is more geared toward athletes, so if that isn’t your thing, no worries. If you are an athlete, FCA hosts events, camps, and small groups with the purpose of training student athletes physically while leading them into meaningful relationships with Christ. FCA provides great opportunities to meet other Christian athletes and encourage each other on and off the playing field.
To get involved, visit their website, and explore the opportunities that they have available either at your school or in your area.
College is a time of transformation, but it’s not without challenges. When we go through those challenges, we want to come out of it closer to God and encouraged. Having a spiritual support system in place, with people who will speak truth to us, love us, and encourage us through the tough and good times is essential.
I know that it can be a lot to go out and find people and groups that provide us with opportunities to build a biblical friendship or to find a mentor. It requires work, intentionality, and a lot of patience. But God does not intent for us to go through life and difficulty alone, and he will provide you with the spiritual support system that you need. We only have to trust Him and try.
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