Fellow College Students, Please Join a Local Church

Editors’ note: Find a gospel-centered congregation near you using TGC’s church directory.

What would you do if you saw a nose strutting down the street? You’d cry out, “Why are you not joined to a body?”

We should have the same reaction to Christian college students who are not joined to a local church.

In my early years of college, I lived like a detached nose. But when I learned the importance of church membership and joined a local congregation, I finally found where I belonged. I tasted the security of having pastors shepherd me and feed me God’s Word. I gained wisdom as older, faithful women discipled me. I felt the pleasure of serving others with my gifts and resources. Most of all, I was humbled by the truth that the church is the bride for whom Christ shed his blood.

How could I claim to love Christ while neglecting his treasured bride?

To my fellow college students, here are four biblical reasons you should join a local church where you’re currently living.

1. ​To be watched over by church leaders.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17).

College is a prime time to mature spiritually, but we cannot properly grow if we do not submit to church leaders who feed, shepherd, and protect us.

Many college students excuse themselves from church membership, believing the local church can be replaced by a parachurch ministry. However, a campus ministry (or a Christian university, for that matter) is not equivalent to the local church because God has not given it the same authority. Church leaders possess a special authority that involves guarding, guiding, and giving an account for souls. By not joining a church, we disregard God’s wise plan for us.

2. To be discipled by older church members.

“Older women likewise are . . . to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–5).

My favorite memories of college life so far include sipping boba tea and chatting with older church members about marriage and family. There are few contexts for students to develop relationships with people in a different life stage. College is a formative and transitionary season where we learn how to be adults. Trying to figure out adult life by only talking to other 20-year-olds will leave us unprepared for life and ministry. We need the advice and wisdom of older church members to help us learn and grow as we walk down paths they’ve already traveled.

Trying to figure out adult life by only talking to other 20-year-olds will leave us unprepared for life and ministry.

3. To build up the church.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–13).

College students have gifts and abilities that are uniquely suited to serve a local church. As the younger members of a congregation, we are energetic and innovative. We have artistic, athletic, and musical talents. We make good Ramen! We have a unique platform for evangelism, since we interact regularly with non-Christian students. We can find countless ways to contribute to the life of the church and build up the body of Christ.

4. To learn to love those Jesus loved.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).

Some students shy away from pursuing church membership because they can’t find a church that meets their needs and wants. This consumer mindset is foreign to the Bible. Scripture teaches that the church is a group of people we prioritize and commit to. Instead of only looking for a church that meets our needs, we ought to look for a group of people we envision giving our lives for, just as Christ gave his life for the church.

God is glorified when the power of the gospel unites people who have little in common.

Part of this commitment involves giving ourselves to people we aren’t naturally inclined to know. It’s a beautiful glimpse of heaven when an 80-year-old Costa Rican grandmother and a 23-year-old Chinese-American student sit in the same pew, sing the same songs, pray for one another, and eat around the same table. God is glorified when the power of the gospel unites people who have little in common.

These are just four of many reasons to join a local church in college. May the Lord grant you a fresh love for his bride—both for your good and also for his glory.

What a profound kingdom impact there would be if more college students were committed to serving, loving, and treasuring the bride of Christ.