Several years ago I wrote a piece on finding a college church which I reposted last year around this time. Year after year it is one of the most read posts on the blog.
As a new academic year comes into focus, I am compelled to reach out again in trying to help incoming freshman, transfer and upper-class students skillfully connect with local body of believers.
It is so easy to buy into the consumer culture mentality in trying to find a church with everything you want, resulting in shopping around for months and months and usually ending in failure. But that is what most believing students do.
So this year I want to flip the switch and instead of telling you what to do, I am going to try and advise what not to do when choosing a college church.
Four words of warning.
1. Don’t believe everything you hear. Churches have reputations just like people and most of it is blatant rumor, false information, and competitive gossip. Please don’t believe everything everyone is saying about a particular church. You must visit and find out for your self.
2. Don’t think one church will have everything you want. There is simply no such place. No single church can meet all of your preferences, wants, desires, and accommodations. Therefore you must determine what are your top tier issues. You have to arrange what matters most to you and your growth in Christ, such as worship style, preaching content, biblical faithfulness, friendliness to guests, college ministry options, ways to serve in the community or if they are globally-minded. Determine your top one or two issues and look for those alone.
How do you find those things out? Read the bulletin, website, and newsletter word for word. You can get a quick sense of the church values by what is printed. If you get a chance to shake the pastor’s hand, ask him one question: “What does this church value the most?” That will give you your answer. If they can’t answer that question, move on.
3. Don’t be persuaded to go where everyone goes. Mob decision-making is never the best. There might be a church off the beaten path that really needs some fresh college students to take them to the next level. They might be so blessed with you coming that you change their future direction and ministry.
Sometimes when the crowd all goes to the same place, you get lost. Peel off. Take a risk. Sacrifice a few preferences to make a bigger impact for the kingdom. Be a blessing, not a consumer.
4. Lastly, don’t drag this thing out. Visit once or twice, consider your top tier issues, pray for God’s guidance, and choose. If you move on, move on quickly. If you stay, get plugged in quickly. The longer you drag out the search, the less likely you are to ever land anywhere.
I hope this is a help to you this semester. If you are a college student who has found a local body to invest in, I am very proud of you. Why not pass this post around to some of friends still on the hunt. It could be a real blessing to them and their search process.