It’s the beginning of a new college semester. Moms and dads with loaded-down pickup trucks have dropped off their students with everything in tow. Those parents will talk to their students about study habits, time management, social responsibility and financial restraint. But the one conversation most parents will never have with their college student is about how to seek and find a local church while at school.
Students who are committed believers in Christ will be left with two options: go to the church where all their friends attend or just venture out to some random church that sounds vaguely familiar to what they had back home and see what happens.
Both options leave much to be desired. So here are five tips for finding a college church from a guy who loves college students and the church deeply.
First, the most popular church is not always the most healthy church. Simply because “everyone” goes there does not necessarily mean the church is a good place for you. Every college town has a “sexy” church that attracts the masses. But in my experience, sexy churches are often pretty and alluring on the outside, but not so healthy on the inside. Be cautious in going to the place that everyone is talking about. There’s a reason they are talking.
Secondly, consider the lead preacher/pastor’s preaching style. Students must put on their theology thinking caps here and try to discern where the lead preacher/pastor stands on the Bible. Students should ask: “Are they committed to teaching God’s word or do they use the Bible to teach modern pop psychology? Do they open the scriptures and explain their meaning to the lives of their people or is the Bible something that sits on the pulpit opened, but not taught from.” The use and treatment of scripture is a good indicator if the church is conservative or liberal in its theology.
Third, consider the atmosphere and authenticity in worship. When you go in and everything starts, do you sense that the vast majority of the people are there because they love Jesus and want to grow closer to him or are they there out of duty and obligation? This cannot be determined by counting the number of people who sing loudly or how many make some response at the end of the service. You must look for something deeper. Try to look past physical appearance and discern a person’s heart. It’s tough, but it can be done.
Fourth, pick a church where you can serve somewhere immediately. The most dangerous thing for a young believer to do during the college years is to become a church consumer. You were not a consumer in your hometown church or in your previous youth ministry. You were out serving others, going on mission trips, making a difference in the world. Do not put your spiritual gifts on the shelf during these four years of college–they might dry up.
Finally, try not to visit too many. The more you visit, the more likely you are to keep changing, and the consumer mentality grows. As Joshua Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., eloquently stated, “Stop dating the church.” Visit two or three times, make a decision and stick with it. Your delay in commitment will severely stunt your growth in Christ.
Remember the church is Jesus’ bride and you need to find one quickly. Godspeed on your search.
Originally posted for http://kyforward.com