College is full of new friends, new experiences, and new places to call home. Those who are interested in attending church while in school may find the church-hunting process to be exhausting and downright frustrating. When you’re new in town and only know a handful of people, it can be hard to find a church that’s welcoming and feels like home. But just because you’re leaving all that’s familiar back home doesn’t mean you can’t find an equally great church in your college town. Know that it’s going to take a little research, a lot of patience, and an open mind, but you will eventually find the right church for your time in college. Here are seven tips to get your church search started off right.
1. Identify your needs
One of the first things you should do when looking for a church in college is identify your needs. Make a list of the things you need from a church and use it to guide you in your decision-making process. While making your list consider these factors: denomination, church size, worship style, pastoral leadership, opportunities for college students, and distance from campus.
2. Ask Around
When in doubt, just ask around for good church recommendations. Lots of people have been in your exact shoes and know how hard it can be to find a good church in a new town. If you’re involved in a student club or organization, ask other members where they go to church or attend bible study. Word-of-mouth recommendations may be the fastest and easiest way to find a church, and, if it works out, you’ll already know at least one person at your new church.
3. Visit different churches
Oftentimes, students "church hop" before deciding on one place of worship. Friends may ask you to join them at church in hopes that you’ll become a member. It’s important to keep an open mind while visiting different churches, but also remember to listen to your heart. The pressure to join a church can be tough to ignore, but it’s far more important to go wherever you feel the most comfortable.
4. Talk to members
When visiting different churches, it’s important that you talk to the members who attend regularly and ask what their experience has been like. Depending on your list of needs, you may want to ask members about volunteer service, spiritual counseling, social activities, religious study, and other offerings at the church. If you can, try to speak with church members who are close to your age so you can get a better idea if the church is a good fit for students.
5. Meet the leaders of the church
As you’re looking for a church to attend, it’s important to meet and talk with the leaders of the church. Ideally, you should be able to get along with and relate to the priest, pastor, preacher, or other church leader. He or she should be approachable and easy to talk to. If you can’t talk freely to your church leader, you may have trouble feeling connected to the church and may benefit from visiting other churches to find a better fit.
6. Look for a church close to campus/home
When searching for a church in college, it is in your best interest to stay close to campus or your home. If you stray too far from school or home, going to church may end up feeling like a burden and you may not go as much as you’d like. When you need spiritual advice or a quiet place to pray, you’ll want to be within a close distance to your church.
7. Find a church that caters to college students
While you’re searching for a church in college, it’s important to look for places that cater to college students and have plenty of opportunities for students to flourish within the church. The church doesn’t have to be on campus or associated with your college, but it is does help to see young, college-aged members like yourself in the congregation. When you’re comfortable, your college church should feel like a home away from home.