A paper to write? Meetings to keep up with? Parties? New friends? Heading off to college and being out on your very own for the first time presents students with many new opportunities. One opportunity students often let dwindle is an opportunity to grow their faith. Suddenly, you don’t have the convenience of having your parents drive you to church or walking into a familiar environment; it’s up to you to discover what you believe and why. As easy as it is to let your relationship with God fall by the wayside, growing in your faith can be an important tool for success during such a turning point in our lives.
I am blessed to know four beautiful women, inside and out. They have shown me ways to keep my spirit alive and encourage me daily to strengthen my relationship with God in any way possible.
When asked “How do you keep Christ in your college lifestyle?” these women responded in quite different ways, having started at different stages in their dedication to their faith when entering college. However, with some help from these women, I have found that there are some key elements to help keep our lives full with His spirit amidst a hectic and exciting college lifestyle:
- Find a weekly or bi-weekly service to attend. This allows us to refocus our thoughts for a few hours solely on our faith. Also, attending a weekly service helps to find a “home” where you can feel at ease and make new friends.
- Try everything…twice! Often times, a new church service or devotional group can seem intimidating and uncomfortable after just one attendance. Go back a second time when it will be more familiar.
- Meet people that want to continue going to a church service. Having a friend to go with offers accountability and makes getting used to a new setting more comfortable.
- Put your Bible somewhere that you can access it easily and will remind you to read it when you have a few minutes. For example, beside your bed, on your coffee table, or even beside the toilet!
“Staying true to my beliefs wasn’t as hard for me as I thought, going to college. I think it was difficult to accept the fact that not everyone was going to care what I believe or listen to me, simply because I said I was a Christian. There were some really lonely days, but God has used all of that to shape me.
I struggled to find a new church home when I got to school. It wasn’t until January of my freshman year that I was introduced to the church I now call home, OneLife Church. It could not be a better fit for me!! I am so thankful for the friend that took me with her that Sunday! God knew exactly what I needed and where I would find it. I have gotten involved in that church and can’t imagine going anywhere else. I am in a community group with other college students one night a week, and I volunteer with fellow church members most Sunday mornings (at our church). The community and fellowship I have established at that church often gets me through the week.
Another thing that has helped me, besides sheer determination and conviction, is reading my bible, journaling, and reading Jesus Calling – a short daily devotional. Staying true to your beliefs in college is a choice you have to make daily. It’s not easy, or simple, and what works for some people may not work for you. It’s more than going to church and praying before meals; it’s about having a relationship with Jesus and striving to live your everyday life as He would.”
“I have been involved with a couple organizations that have helped build my faith in college. I attend Fellowship Evangelical Free Church services every Sunday morning and college services Monday evenings. Also, I am active in an on-campus Christian Greek community called The Cross that has been a great place to connect with fellow believers. At both places I find encouragement and fellowship with others as we learn more about God’s work and plan in our lives.”
“Thankfully, when I came to college, I had older friends who were already involved in a college ministry at a local Baptist church. It starts with contemporary worship, which I enjoy. The college pastor speaks on a different series every month, and I love the fact that I am always engaged in what he is saying. His sermons are always very relatable to college students’/young adults’ lives and the daily struggles we face as Christians in a world and environment in which our actions are not always popular.
I was also involved in a small group through this ministry. Six other girls and I met once a week and had various studies, including a study on Ruth and Esther in which I learned just what amazing women of God they were. We also read a book called Radical which helped us understand how hard it is to be a Christian in America where materialism is such a main focus. These studies challenged my relationship with God in a good way, in that they pushed me to strive for the best relationship with Him possible.
The girls and I also talked about things going on in our lives and informed each other of prayer requests we had. I found it so refreshing to be in community with other girls my age who have the same morals and desire to live a life that brings glory to God. If it were not for my involvement in my church at school, I truly don’t know how I would keep my head screwed on straight. I crave Wednesday nights at my church. It is the fuel that keeps me going and provides me with strength to live my life in the best light possible. I find it so encouraging that hundreds of students attend the same Wednesday night service that I do. It is a comforting feeling to know so many students from my school have a passion and willingness to serve the Lord just as I do.”
“Before I started my first year at the University of Tennessee I went on a mission trip to New Orleans to help with the Hurricane Katrina victims. It was then and there that I realized how important it was to maintain a nightly bible study before going to bed. I started going to The Walk, a college ministry worship that was held every Wednesday, in order grow in my faith even more. Being in college takes a lot out of you and sometimes it’s really easy to lose yourself in the lifestyle. That is why it is so important that you never lose sight of yourself, your moral stability, and most importantly, the one who loves you most, God.”
These ladies have made a HUGE difference in my life, as I know they have in many others. So, as they have taught me…no matter the difference in denomination, your busy schedule, or the intimidation of a new atmosphere, take that first step to embrace a new opportunity that will impact the rest of your life.
So many religious organizations are offered on The University of Tennessee campus. Not only UT, but so many college campuses make it convenient to stay strong in your beliefs while in a new environment. Check out other schools’ religious organizations such as The University of Maryland, Auburn University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, just to name a few.
Lauren Harris is an Intern for College Lifestyles (TM). She enjoys shopping to find the latest trends at an affordable price and spending quality time with family, friends and her Phi Mu sisters. She has a weakness for chocolate and can be won over by adorable puppies in an instant. Cleaning and organization are the keys to her sanity and the occasional outdoor adventure is where she finds her happy place.