I grew up in church and youth group. Every year, youth group alumni would return for break and inevitably, most would talk about the importance of connecting with a Christian community at college. You’ve probably heard some variation of it before from family or pastors: “When you go to college, make sure you plug into a church or college ministry right away or else you could start to lose your faith!”
Hearing this over and over quickly made me shove the thought back into my “Things-I-Should-Do-Once-I-Graduate” file. I was enjoying high school, I had a great community in the youth group, and yeah, I know, I’ll find a college ministry/church when I cross that bridge. Now stop bugging me about it.
Well, before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to all my friends from the youth group and enrolling in a local college, so I could still attend and serve in my regular church. All was well.
Skip to the start of the school year.
All was not well. After four years of the strong, caring, Christian group of peers I had had in the youth group, I started to feel the void left by the absence of close community, even as I kept attending large church services and helping out in children’s ministries. While I needed the teaching and community that church services brought, I also desperately wanted more personal and intimate groups to cultivate friendships and help me grow. Funny how God has a habit of flipping your plans upside down and showing you just how dependent on Him you really are.
I felt isolated and out of place
I had started attending the Navigators ministry, mainly because that’s what my older brother had done. The Navigators was a great ministry, the people were nice, the teaching sound, but it wasn’t the same. I had gone from knowing everyone to only knowing a handful of people I saw here and there. I was suddenly the new kid at school again, and it threw me. I felt isolated and out of place, alone in the midst of thousands of students, all while dealing with the metric tons of stress college brings. I know some of you can relate.
When we feel alone, we tend to withdraw even more. I was tempted to stop attending Navs, and if I had left, I doubt I would’ve had the motivation to join another ministry considering how I was feeling.
Bottom line here: don’t wait, get plugged in and stay involved, no matter how hard it may be at first.
I’ve seen people fall away from church and their faith just in my second semester of college already. And it’s not a dramatic change, it’s in the little daily choices we make, whether to sleep in instead of attending church, doing homework (or Netflix) versus spending time with our Lord, etc etc. Bottom line here: don’t wait, get plugged in and stay involved, no matter how hard it may be at first. Christian community is vital. I know you may have heard this many times, but it’s true. Repetition of a fact does not make it false.
About two months after I had joined Navs, the big fall retreat came up and I decided to go. That weekend changed everything. I connected to my peers in the Cedar Rapids Navs group in a way I hadn’t before; we grew together, laughed together, worshipped together, and simply shared life together. After that weekend, Navs was no longer just a ministry to me, it was a family.
Psalm 34:3 says, “O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (emphasis added) The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone, but in community both with God and other believers. Naturally, it won’t always be easy, but when was something worth having ever easy?
Don’t wait. It matters.