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College students and the church

Editor’s Note: At Karis, we care about helping women understand God’s word and his design in every season in life. That is why we are doing a series for college students. Today’s post continues this series with a discussion on the importance of the local church for college students. We hope you will continue to join us for a wide range of topics for college students.

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By Catherine Parks

I attended a small Christian liberal arts university that required student church attendance most Sundays in a semester. During my four years in this small town, I bounced around from church to church. Most of the time, my choice was motivated by convenience. I might drive 45 minutes away to the nearest city if I had plans to do something there after church, or if I wanted extra sleep I would attend the one just down the road.

There was a period of consistency for several months in which I attended a small mountain church. The teaching was good, the choir was a precious display of 80-year-olds singing their hearts out for Jesus, and the people were loving and faithful. It would have been a great body in which to be involved, but I had no desire for more connection than what I found during the greeting portion of the Sunday morning service.

See, I felt I already had sufficient fellowship with the Body in my college. My friends and professors were believers. I attended Bible classes, Bible studies, chapel, campus worship services, etc. So attending a local church was more about checking a box than it was joining with a local gathering of the Body of Christ.

Now I’m a member of a church body in Nashville, TN. We have students from a few local universities who attend our Sunday services and are involved in our college ministry. It is a tremendous blessing to our church to have these students with us. Several serve in the nursery or preschool departments. They look for ways to connect with families in the church. They seem to understand something I didn’t—it’s not all about me.

Joining a Church in a Time of Transition

In Hebrews 10:19-25, the writer encourages us that, since we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, we should “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Gathering with a local church is about meeting together, encouraging one another, stirring one another up to love and good works.

If you’re a college student, I encourage you to plug into a local church body. Here are just a few reasons why it’s important:

  1. Loving Christ means loving His Bride – The Church is the Bride of Christ. The local church is a group of Christians committed to Christ and to one another. Part of this commitment involves service. Loving the Bride of Christ means serving her in practical ways. You may not have any idea how encouraging it is to a church to have students in regular attendance, but I can tell you a beautiful burst of energy and excitement enters our church body when students come back to school in September.
  2. Practice now what you plan to do later – A lack of devotion and commitment to a local church during four years of college sets us up for a lack of commitment once the college experience is over. During my college years I looked at church with a consumer mentality, and that did not change when I graduated. It took time, but the Lord graciously opened my eyes to the beauty of committing to and serving other believers.
  3. The church is beautifully diverse – I think many college para-church organizations are great, but they are not the same thing as the local church. Involvement in the local church brings us together with a diversity of ages, races, socio-economic backgrounds and stages of life. Yes, you can find some of that in organizations, but how many opportunities do you have to be in homes of families with small children? Do you get to sit across from elders with incredible wisdom, gleaning from them on a weekly basis? If most of your spiritual encouragement during the week comes from peers or twenty-something’s, you are missing out on a beautiful gift. Step outside the bubble for a bit and get a glimpse of your future from those who are walking with Christ in the generations ahead of you.

Life Together

If I could have a do-over of my time in college, I would give up some of my on-campus activities for the chance to plug in and meet regularly with a local church. And this means more than just attending—the New Testament churches did life together. They joined together and served and loved one another. They encouraged each other toward the larger goal—the church as a missional community. This coming together fueled the spread of the gospel and kept the Christians grounded and like-minded.

My church is my family. Even if you’re only there for a year or two, don’t miss out on a chance to meet and serve more of your global family. They might just become some of the closest friends you have.

*I’m indebted to my two adopted college “daughters,” Clair and Monica, for assisting me in writing this article. They have greatly encouraged me and so many others by their love for the church and their devotion to our local body.

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During nap times and between loads of laundry at her home in Nashville, TN, Catherine Parks is a writer. At other times of the day you can find her either pretending to be a cheetah wrangler with her two small kiddos, or trying to convince her husband, Erik, to become a coffee drinker. Catherine has a BA in English literature from Bryan College and is finally putting the degree to work in a book on Christ-centered weddings. Follow her on Twitter at @CathParks.

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