For a college student, becoming involved with a local church can be uncomfortable.
Often, Christian students’ community centers on a campus ministry rather than a multigenerational church. Campus ministries can be a great way to connect with other Christian students and a wonderful source of encouragement throughout the school week—but they’re not the bride of Christ, and they’re not prescribed by the New Testament.
On the other hand, the church is graciously built into the Christian life as a biblical norm. The importance of church membership applies to college students just as much as to adults in other stages of life.
The importance of church membership applies to college students just as much as to adults in other stages of life.
In God’s kindness, I attend a school near a healthy, faithful church that has contributed tremendously to my spiritual growth these past few years. I spent a few weeks visiting churches at the beginning of my freshman year, and I chose to attend the church that seemed the most Bible- and gospel-focused.
But getting involved still had its challenges.
Who Reaches Out First?
When I first attended, there were no college students who were members of my church (or any church in the area, to my knowledge), although one sweet, godly college senior was attending regularly. Although I was basically in a demographic of my own, my pastor and his wife and other kind members whose ministries focused on young adults welcomed me warmly into the congregation.
Nonetheless, I didn’t immediately feel enfolded into the church. There were few older people reaching out or engaging in any sort of discipleship with me, and it seemed like the effort of cultivating those deeper Christian bonds would mostly fall on me.
It seemed like the effort of cultivating deeper Christian bonds would mostly fall on me.
With the perspective I have now, I can see why my church experience went this way. I was attending a relatively young church plant, and many of the members were new themselves. We all had some maturing to do!
Plus, I assumed that I was more intimidated to approach older members than they were to approach me—an assumption I now know to be untrue. College students are not necessarily easily approachable, even if they are young.
Despite having a relationship with God, I was often reluctant to attend church that first semester. I built friendships with other Christians, but underneath I felt discouraged that I, the college student, was usually the more intentional and outgoing member of those friendships. I had a good desire to be known by others at church, but selfishly, I was longing most for people to reach out to me and try to get to know me, rather than doing those things for people older than me.
Self-Focus or Christ-Focus?
Inevitably, it was also more difficult to click with church members in completely different walks of life than to click with non-Christian hallmates from my dorm. At age 18, my primary goal was to gain attention and acceptance from my peers, so my life began to look much more like an unwise and self-glorifying college student than a growing Christian.
My first semester of college featured a focus on myself rather than a focus on God. I was walking around with a little bit of guilt nagging me constantly, but my fast-paced social life helped me shrug it off. I was spiritually stagnant and avoided confronting my sins.
But, by his grace, God worked on my heart as I sat under biblical preaching week after week. I remember sitting in my freshman dorm and asking a question: Do I want to keep living a self-focused life and give up being a Christian, or do I want to fully embrace my relationship with Christ? That moment recalibrated me spiritually, and that’s when I decided I needed to become more involved with my church.
I decided to become a member of my church because I knew I couldn’t be a committed Christian, one who was actively pursuing Christ, without accountability. We are all sheep stumbling through the Christian life, and this is especially true of college students, who are often surrounded with all the enticements and challenges of the world and the Devil. College students need pastoral oversight just as much as any other Christian.
I decided to become a member of my church because I knew I couldn’t be a committed Christian without accountability.
As a member, I’ve also committed my Christian walk to the other members of my church. We’re called into a family where we can lovingly point each other away from sin and toward Jesus. As the Lord worked in my heart, I grew less entitled and more concerned with pouring myself out for others. That change brought about deep friendships with people different from me—friendships focused more on Jesus than on myself.
Becoming involved with a church was not easy, but it was rewarding. Knowing and being known by others, whose lives center on Christ, is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given as believers—and we don’t have to wait until college graduation to take advantage of it.