College offers a lot of new opportunities and experiences. For many people, it also marks the end of certain habits, such as going to church. It's easy to assume this can never happen to you, especially if you are heavily involved with your faith community.

However, almost two-thirds of teens and young adults stop attending church regularly once they are no longer living under their parents' roofs. This statistic implies that finding a new place to worship where you feel like you belong may not be as simple as it sounds.

Don't Just Follow the Crowd

If you join a religious student organization on campus, attending the same church as the new friends you meet there may seem logical. What happens when they decide to stop going, though? You may feel obligated to continue in a place that may not be a good fit for you. Alternatively, you may decide to drop out, too. It's better to find a community with which you feel a strong connection.

Do Take Your Time

When you arrive alone in a new city, it's tempting to rush into finding a community to offset the loneliness that often descends upon college freshmen. However, doing so may squander the opportunity this fresh start gives you to examine what you really want in a church:

  • Are they affirming and welcoming to LGBTQIA+ folks?
  • Do they offer opportunities for new members to meet other people?
  • How do they serve the community around them?
  • Would you feel comfortable inviting other people to their services?

These are just a few examples of questions that can help you discern whether a church is a good fit for you. Before you commit to the new members' class, take the time to make sure the values they claim match your own.

Don't Judge a Church by Its Appearance

Many places of worship spend a lot of money to make sure their property catches the attention of passersby. They also spend a lot of time ensuring that their services are upbeat and entertaining. Don't let the theatrics distract you. Focus on the messages you hear to determine whether each place you visit is a church that will aid you in your spiritual growth.

Do Meet With Church Leaders

The first place you should look for information when you decide to visit a church is the website. This will give you a good overview of what the church believes. It also can help you formulate follow-up questions for the pastor and other leaders when you meet them. The meeting doesn't have to be formal, but a conversation with people who are spiritually invested in the community can help you decide whether it's the right one for you.

Don't Expect It To Be Just Like Your Home Church

Most college students who look for a new place of worship have fond memories of the one they grew up in. Every faith community has its own personality, though. If you allow your nostalgia for your home church to set your expectations, you may miss out on a wonderful new one.

Do Give Yourself Grace

Looking for a new faith community can be exhausting. It's unlikely that you will find the right place the first time you try. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it's OK to take a break. Taking a Sunday off to sleep in may be just what you need to regroup (especially around midterms!). 

The prospect of finding a new church on your own may seem daunting, especially if it's the first time you've ever really been away from home. If you take the time you need to make the decision that's best for you, though, it can make all the difference. 

Category: Religion

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