Why Church Is Vital for College Students

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In this video, G’Joe and Aimee Joseph explain why local church involvement is a two-way street and how the college years build a scaffolding from campus life into church life.

The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check the video before quoting.

G’Joe Joseph: So, committing to a local church is very important for college students. And I think that’s a great question. The nuance that I would give to that question is that I think it’s a two-way street of a question. In other words, the question could be asked why is it important for college students to commit to the local church? But it can also be asked why is it important for the local church to be committed to college students?

And I think that the answer to the first question is really best understood in light of seeing that as a two-way question. With that being said, let me say that there’s obvious reasons why church is incredibly significant to college students that really began and kind of are centralized in a vertical or spiritual relationship with God and Christ that the gospels most fully understood in our relationship with him but in the context of relationship.

And so, the horizontal is so strongly tethered to the vertical. And so, the answer is both a spiritual question but it’s also a social question or a communal question that there is incredible importance for your spiritual walk with Christ to be rooted and grounded in the truths by the preached word in the context of community.

But both are very, very important, and I don’t think the Scriptures give us an option on picking one or the other. The reality is that when in Mark 12 when Jesus was asked what’s the greatest commandment, he said, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul and love others as yourself. The second is like it.

That there is such a tethering of loving others is so connected to the loving God and even in 1 John where it says, “If we walk in the light as he is in the light,” the vertical, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus covers us for a multitude of sins. So, there is a tethering of a both and. And so, the opportunities in church to connect in a communal way with people that are older than you, that are younger than you, that are your same age, is an incredible gift, especially because you think about college as a fairly homogeneous season and place of life.

No other time will you be around 18- to 22-years-olds as an 18- to 22-year-old. The rest of your life you’ll be getting used to being around people that are older and younger. And so, it’s a great opportunity to connect and to have meaningful relationships in an intergenerational way. Now, let me say one last thing about this. That I don’t mean simply that you’re attending church and that old and the young are sitting together listening to a sermon, nor would I say a true sense of diversity is just because one race and another race are sitting, you know, in the same place.

But really, the intergenerational opportunity comes when you begin to step into relationships with one another. When you begin to take care of little kids as a college-aged student, which is so life-giving to connect and to commune with people that are of older that are in the marketplace or even beyond.

There is such a great opportunity to just grow in your vertical relationship with God in the context of relationships one to another.

Aimee Joseph: Yeah. I think just to add onto that, we say all the time to our college students, we do college ministry, and so, we say all the time college ministry is great.

It is seasonal. That college ministries come and go, and organizations, we say, too, don’t love you back in the sense of they’re not going to be there with you for ever and ever, amen. And so, college ministries are significant, and they’re important, and they’re incredibly strategic and shaping because the college years are wet cement. And so, we say we think it’s a both and. We think get involved on the campus, get to know people that are in the same age life stage that are where you live, work, and play because the campus is really a city in every way.

But don’t let that be it because that’s not going to last forever and the church will. Christ says, I have built my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. He did not say anything about a campus ministry in that. And so, I think there needs to be a kind of a scaling up and a scaling down. So, your freshman year, it’s right and good to be very involved in your campus and to be attending a local church, maybe be a member at a local church, serve at a local church, but maybe getting your primary mentorship and discipleship from the campus.

But as you kind of approach that junior year, there should be a shifting that happens from my lead foot is on the campus to my lead foot is in the local church. Because you want to already have built a scaffolding and some basic relationships so that when you graduate, you’re not cold turkey jumping into a community that you don’t know. Because what we have seen and statistically is a large amount of disillusionment when students haven’t been plugged into the local church, and then they graduate, and they’re expecting everything to be brought to them on a platter right wherever they are.

And that’s not how it works in the real world. And so, I think it’s getting yourself positioned and postured for a lifelong love of the local church. And then I think the other thing is that it offers perspective. I think college students can be incredibly myopic, and they’re into big, and they’re into flashy, and that’s not always bad.

But the Christian life is often not big, and not epic, and not experientially awesome mountain top experience. It is often a long, messy obedience in the same direction. And if you haven’t seen that lived out in the early motherhood years, and in the caring for aging parent years, and in the hardships of marriage years, it’s going to be really hard to practice that.

And so, I think the church gives you perspective to see that long obedience in the same direction played out in multiple different personalities, and different realms, and different arenas of life. So, yeah, I think it’s perspective that it offers, the local church.