So, you are miles away from your parents and the church you grew up in. Now you are in a position and environment where you need to find a new one. Often finding a church for people can be a long and tasking endeavor. Often students end up hopping from church to church, Sunday after Sunday, never fully plugging into a local body. Your time in college, and even after you leave college, will be impacted by your commitment to a local body of believers. Here are four things you should know and three things you should do as you look to plug into the church:
WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW?
1. It is by God’s design that you need the local church
The Lord expects Christians to be a part of the body of Christ. We are created with needs for community, biblical teaching, and ways to serve. All of this can be found through a good local church. He commands us in Hebrews 10:25 “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” This command is for our good.
2. You will not find the church you grew up in
Often we look for churches that were just like the one we grew up in. My friend, your childhood church is your childhood church. Most often you will not find a church exactly like the one you grew up in. That’s ok! There are still good ones you can choose from.
3. You will not find the perfect church
There is no perfect church. If you find one, don’t join it. It’s probably too good to be true. You should be looking for the church that is biblical, rather than just aesthetically pleasing. This keeps us from approving churches by what is pleasing to our sight rather than to God’s.
4. A para-church ministry is not a church
You will find many ministries to be a part of while you are in college. There are lots of spiritual settings you can be involved in like the BCM, CRU, StuMo, and other Christian sororities and fraternities. These spaces are great, but they are not the church. Collegiate ministries often lack the diversity of people who are in different stages of life. Their experiences are crucial for your maturity in the faith.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Usually every church has a website or some social media page with their information. Look for things like a statement of faith, vision or mission statement, and/or sermon audio to help get a clearer understanding of what the church is about. Some even have some type of “New Here!” button that will allow you to connect with someone from the church. Take some time to see what the church is about even before you visit. This could be an easy way to see if this is a gospel preaching church.
It’s Sunday! You are going to visit a church for the first time. Hopefully you feel welcomed and people are cordial to you. Who knows? You may even be invited to lunch by someone. That’s all great. Here’s what you should take note of though. Do they sing songs that affirm biblical truths? Do they pray affectionately? Are the sermons gospel centered? These things should be constant in every service. With that, I would encourage you to visit one church for a few weeks straight. It would be good to see if what you saw week one is a weekly reality.
It would be very easy to just attend church every Sunday and never do anything else with your church. I would encourage you to join your church in membership and learn how you can serve your church. Look for places to plug in. Seek to be mentored by an older member. Look to see who you can disciple as well. Your relationship to the body should be one of commitment not consumeristic.
As you seek out a new church, these tips should be helpful in guiding the way. Through it all, be prayerful and seek the wisdom of the Lord. Happy church hunting!