You move in, meet your weird roommates, let your mom unpack your clothes and cry over everything, and then launch into the unknown realm of credits, quality points, syllabi, learning styles, and a whole host of other words you don’t know (here there be dragons).
After managing to survive your first week of classes (congrats!), you are now faced with a daunting question on a Saturday night – how do I choose a church?
If you’re already thinking that as a freshman, you’re actually doing pretty well. There are far too many millennials who skip the question entirely and abandon church altogether in college. But you’re not one of those. Your faith is real to you. You love Jesus. And you want to fellowship with His people.
But which part of His people in your local area do you fellowship with?
It’s a tough question. One I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years. In my area, there are oodles of good churches, and I know many friends have had a hard time deciding. Even right now.
I don’t pretend to be an expert. But let me just offer a few pieces of practical advice.
Choose a church where you can serve.
Well duh. But a lot of millennials – myself included – tend to forget this part. We get so focused on finding a church where we can “be served.” Churches that have a really good music ministry that uplifts us after a weary week of class. Churches with an animated preacher. Churches with a lot of cool programs and activities. None of these are bad things – or even bad reasons to choose a church.
But life is not about being ministered to. Serving Christ is not finding a place where you are blessed. It’s finding a place where you can bless people.
God can handle sending people into your life to mentor and invest in you if you make it a priority to mentor and invest in others.
So go to a church where you can get “plugged in” right away. I don’t mean a church that lets you teach every Sunday school, take over the choir, and boot the pastor out of his pulpit. Too often we want a church that lets us do all the ministry we want while avoiding the ministries that are less “cool.” We want to get to preach or sing, but not do children’s church.
But if you go to a church willing to serve in any capacity, in any class, in any area of need – even cleaning toilets! – I guarantee you that in the long run you will be blessed. And given time, that church will grow to trust you and appreciate you and give you more opportunities to serve in bigger ways.
Choose a church where you can grow.
I mean this as a balance to my first point. Our first priority should be finding a place where we can serve, but it’s not wrong to consider if a church will actually grow you spiritually. If you feel weak in your walk, you need a church that will strengthen you in the trying days of college. Find a church where the preaching is solid and biblical, not just one that makes you feel emotionally “high.” Find a church with uplifting music, but don’t make it a bigger deal than it should be. Join a church where you know there are good saints – old and young – who will be willing to mentor you, even if it takes some coaxing.
Choose a church in need.
In my area, I see lots of churches that frankly don’t need any help. Large churches that are doing great, growing, and have incredible leadership. I love these ministries and wish them the best.
But honestly, they don’t need you. Once your church college group reaches over two hundred, I think you have enough millennials in your church. At that point, you should strategically seek to send millennials to churches that need them.
And there are plenty of those in America!
This isn’t just a size issue. I know big churches, like mine, that need millennials to step up and shoulder the burden of ministry. Big churches often have more needs than small ones, and less people willing to help. But certainly, there are many smaller churches who have fifty to a hundred members that need the encouragement, excitement, and edification that only young millennials can bring.
You can choose to go to a church with a vibrant and expanding college ministry. No problem. But I encourage you to consider attending a church that needs you. A church that you can throw everything you have at.
And by the time you graduate, who knows? Maybe because of your and your friends’ investment, that church will be vibrant and growing.
At that point, you can move on to wherever the Lord calls you and find another church where you can serve, grow, and fill needs.