College is a time filled with new faces, new (and harder) classes and, really, a new season of life. With all this excitement and expectation, it’s easy to be captivated by all the “new”, and in the process lose perspective on important things.
One of those important things is joining a church. And not just passively attending church, but seeking real spiritual growth from a Christian community. It can be difficult, especially if you have attended the same church for a long time back home, and now you’re struggling to find a new church away from home. Or maybe you’re on the other end, and you don’t find it necessary to ago to church or even have faith throughout college. Wherever you’re at on the spectrum, here are some reasons from college pastors on why finding a Christian community is crucial in college:
Seth Brill is the college pastor at Pinelake Church in Clinton, MS. A Mississippi College Alumni, Seth understands the stress college students are going through. When asked about the importance of getting plugged in, he said this:
It is important to connect to a church in college for a couple reasons: For one, it provides leadership opportunities connected to the community that exists around and outside of the university. Also, college is the best time to learn how to find and connect to a local church to find biblical community because college will end, but the local church will not.
Daniel Wagner is the new college pastor at Fondren Church, a church in the Fondren District of downtown Jackson, MS. He not only graduated from MC, but also grew up right down the road in Madison. His response to getting plugged in:
Finding a church home while you’re in college is one of the most important decisions you can make. Your new city becomes your home away from home — so finding a new church home should be one of the first things you look to replace as you enter into a new home.
To grow during your time in college, you need great people who want to invest in who you are and who God will grow you to be during your college years. A church may be the best way to find those people! Some may be older than you, and some might be younger so that you can also invest in and serve them. Inter-generational relationships are what makes the church thrive and you can play a role in making local churches healthy churches.
Dr. Christopher Weeks is another MC alum who works as the college pastor at Grace City Church in Jackson. If that wasn’t enough, he is also a professor in the MC Biology department! His response:
Many students come to college desiring to grow in faith. They want know more and see more of how the Lord works. I believe that immersing yourself in a church, and getting invested there is one of the most crucial steps toward growing in faith. It is not really effective enough to just read your Bible, to pray and then sleep in on Sunday. We need each other; we don’t reach the finish-line alone — not for college life, not for all of life. The Lord wired it that way.
Find a church and get neck deep. There are no perfect churches — all have flaws. You should know that choosing a church and then committing, staying beyond the first offense, is often a catalyst for real maturation and growth. It is in remaining in one place long enough to get to know people, that we ourselves can be known — and loved. It is not in perpetually shopping around that we gain some solidity under our feet of real people in a real place who are walking this life alongside us. As we get rooted in a church we have the ability to see, and increased capacity to stomach, that the life the Lord has called us to is complex and good; it is hard and rewarding; it is often laced with bitterness and lined with sweet. It is a life better, and if we’re honest, a life done more obediently, not on our own.
Drew Dabbs, pastor at Morrison Heights in Clinton, weighed in as well. Here is Drew’s take:
When God saves, he moves us out of death and into life in Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-5). But when he does that, he doesn’t save us to life alone - he saves to life together! God builds up those he saves into a body to grow together toward maturity and fullness in Christ (Eph. 2:19-22).
In college, that can feel a little vague or even distant. But college is the single best time to jump into a local body where you can learn how God has uniquely wired you to serve and lead in the church (Eph. 4:11-13). Sometimes the church isn’t everything you want it to be; but that’s exactly why God has called you to use the gifts he has given you. He wants you to be a part of the growing maturity of your local congregation.
Take it from those been who have been where you are. In order to have growth in this time of your life, you have to surround yourself with a Christian community that both supports and challenges you. No matter where you are spiritually, there is a place, a body of believers waiting for you if you are willing to go and seek it!
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” - John 6:37