Breaking Into a New Church Community
One of the most important things to find once you have moved into college is a church community to be a part of while you are away. During my first semester as a freshman, I never would have guessed this would be one of my greatest challenges. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for and I was primarily looking for a church that had a familiar style to my home church. I quickly learned I wouldn’t find a college church home with just these two criteria. Here are a few things to take into account when searching for a church while in college.
Scripture and Sound Teaching
When searching for a church, the first thing you want to examine is the church’s view of scripture as well as the proper teaching of scripture. It is also wise to examine the style of preaching. Is it expository, liturgical, conversational, or topical based in nature? While each style of preaching has its positives, the most important aspect is whether or not the congregation is being fed the Word. It is also extremely important to make sure the church’s doctrine is sound as well as the practice of it.
Order and Structure
We might think as college students that we may not have a place in the governmental functions of a church. But, if we are planning to get involved, especially long term, it is important to be aware of how the church conducts business. It is extremely important to examine how the church handles the resources they have and to be informed how they are going to accomplish specific goals. Do they even have short term and long term goals in the works? There is also nothing wrong with examining the actual size of the church body. Some people thrive in large congregations while other prefer a smaller, more intimate setting.
Observe Church Involvement and Leadership
Observe how members interact with each other. Observe leadership too. Do they treat one another in love and build each other up in the Word? Do those in leadership dedicate time to foster a community built up in scripture and strive to disciple their flock? It’s very important to observe the member and leadership in any church. If there is any spirit of discord it should be noted.
Outlets for Personal Involvement
Since the goal of joining a church is to actually be in community and fellowship with other believers, consider areas/ministries within the church where you could see yourself serving. Some of the best friendships you will make in a church comes from serving in a specific ministry. For college-aged students, getting involved in a college group is a great way to get to know people your age.
Don’t Compare To Your Home Church
This is the mistake I made when I first started searching for a church family my freshman year. While we should be studying the activities of the church itself, no church, even if it is the same denomination as your home church, is the same. There is nothing wrong with noticing the differences between two churches, but we can’t allow the slight variations in preaching, serving and leadership blind us from hearing the Word of God. When the church is not preaching the Word, not adhering to sound doctrine, or is lacking in wise leadership then you have room to criticize.
Getting involved in a new church community requires time and ultimately, patience. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up if you don’t find your niche right away. Take some time to pray over the transition and if you think have found a church, attend more than just one service. Attend 3 or 4 services, and take some time to visit a small group. Even better, go with a group of friends to help ease some anxiety. Persevere and take the time to find a church with sound teaching and an apparent love for Christ, the lost, and fellow Christians.