Attending a religious institution is not the only way to keep your faith in college. When entering into unfamiliar territory - whether it be a new city, state, or just a new neighborhood in your hometown - establishing a new faith community can be a steady constant in one of the biggest transition times of your life. Here are 3 tips to help you keep the faith as you move into this new season:
Find a Church - and Early!
The quickest way to fall out of going to church is to never start with it in your routine. Before classes pick up, and all your new activities fully take over, make sure you have some weekend time to explore a few churches. This is always a slow process - it may take a few visits to different spots before you find a place you truly connect, so starting early helps ensure you won’t go an entire semester without a church community.
This is also a good time to reflect on the church you grew up in, and what you did or did not like about it. If you feel like you want to abandon church entirely, you might just need a new setting. Churches of all denominations operate in vastly different ways - some contemporary, some more traditional, some with congregations that mix generations for small groups or promote “same age, life stage” home groups. If you have been going to the same church for 18 years, you might be surprised at some of the diversity in worship settings outside of your own.
Join a Religious Student Organization
Ask any admissions or student life representative, and their number one piece of advice is probably to get involved! College is a melting pot of people from all different cities and backgrounds, and getting involved in student organizations is a great way to meet people outside of the classroom quickly.
Every college - no matter how conservative or liberal - has at least one religious student organization (though often many more). There are religiously-based fraternities and sororities, denominational-specific campus ministries, and national groups such as Young Life or Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). Where a church might provide the solid foundation of teaching and preaching, student organizations are comprised of the peers you will pass every day on campus. Likely the people you spend your weekdays and weekends with will translate into your closest community, possibly leading to roommates and lifelong friends. Don’t miss the chance to find your niche.
Once You Find the Above, Become a Volunteer
An easy way to stay committed to either of the groups above is to go above and beyond as a volunteer. Offer to greet others before or after service, or run as secretary of the organization so you always must be present to take notes. This is a stronger level of accountability than just assuming you will wake up on time in the morning to head to service. Not to mention, any sort of leadership position can be listed later on a job application, so why not take the opportunity to keep yourself accountable and boost your resume at the same time!
Note that these ideas don’t exclusively apply to non-faith based schools. Just because a school’s curriculum or history is rooted in one faith or another does not mean that your connection to community will come automatically. Your options and resources may be more available, but it is still important to seek them out regardless of where you enroll!