It’s September and some first-year college students are narrowing down their church search. If that’s you, you are in a small minority of college students, so well done! Now I want to push you into an even smaller group: church members.
Most church going students, never join a church during their time away at college electing either to retain membership at their old church or not join anywhere. The question they ask is this: If I have community, am mentored, receive Bible teaching and am engaged in mission, why join a church?
If you are asking that question, you are believing some combination of these four myths.
Myth 1: There is no real benefit in church membership
Church membership isn’t simply a name on a piece of paper. If that’s how your church views membership, it’s time to look for a new church. Church membership is clarifying to the leaders of the church who it is that God has placed in their care. Hebrews 13:17 teaches church leaders that they have a special responsibility for those in their care, a responsibility for which they will be held accountable.
Now, the church certainly wants to care for anyone inside their relational circles, especially those suffering. But the responsibility to care for church members is different. For one, it isn’t just a reactive caring, but a proactive one. If you are a member of a church, you will have people proactively walking with you and thinking about ways you can be equipped for a lifetime of ministry.
At our church (and others in our town), college students who join the church are known, prayed for regularly and equipped in a way that we simply can’t do with everyone. Not to mention the free meals and career advice:)
Myth 2: Membership at my church back home is enough
99% of the time your home church can’t care for you the way a church in your college town can. How can they when they don’t see you for months on end?
I can appreciate the emotional attachment many students (and parents) have for the church they grew up in, but I am certain your pastor back home will agree with me. You should join a church where you live.
Myth 3: I get everything I need from my campus ministry
I was in campus ministry for 9 years and the church I pastor now was started by Cru staff. I have a deep appreciation for campus ministry. I know each of the leaders of the student ministries at our local university and can say with 100% assurance that they would all agree with me in saying that their ministry is no substitute for church.
Campus ministries are vital to universities. If they were to disappear tomorrow, churches would act quickly to recreate them. They provide students with Christian friendships, tools to engage the campus well and contextualized teaching at a crucial juncture in life. But they don’t connect you to the larger body of believers.
The church’s goal is to equip college students to be fruitful in the post-college world, and while plugging into a campus ministry can be a vital part of that mission, it isn’t the whole part. A campus ministry doesn’t baptize, serve communion or practice church discipline. College students need to be around people younger than 18 and older than 25. It’s great to be invested in by an upper classman, but the advice you will get from someone in their 20’s is very different than someone in their 40’s, 50’s and older.
On top of that, the local church loses out if we don’t have you. College students bring life into a church. They bring energy, excitement, world vision and optimism that would otherwise be lacking. Believe myth number three and we both suffer.
Myth 4: I’ll worry about that after college
The problem is that you won’t. Overwhelmingly, students who are plugged into a campus ministry, but not a church in college don’t go on to join a church after graduation. At least not until they have children.
The habits we develop in college are usually true of the rest of our lives and church is no different. The reasons students don’t join a local church during college will be the same reasons they don’t join after graduating. Only then there are no campus ministries and their spiritual lives begin a downward spiral.
Students who appreciate the local church will become graduates who appreciate the local church. They will also be on the fast track to becoming leaders in their churches and making the difference they dreamed of in college.
This month I had the pleasure of leading a new member class with college students in attendance and will be introducing college students to our church as new members. Each time we recognize a college student as a new member, the maturity of that decision is seen, felt and greatly appreciated.
Do you want to faithfully follow Christ during your college years? Then join a church.