So What About God Now That You Are Off to College?
You’ve made it through high school. Survived geometry, given your all for football, reported for the high school newspaper, partied through prom night, cheered the school on to victory, cut class a few times, studied hard, and played even harder.
College is next
So what’s next with God? God was there all through high school. Sometimes you felt it more than others, but there were moments when you knew it for yourself, deep down inside. Sure there were plenty of times you doubted. But somehow that was OK, too. But what about God now that you’re at college? Is God at college with you or not?
College is a four-year-long series of opportunities, crises, and adventures. (More adventures than crises, probably.) New people, places, and things. Choosing a major. Funding your studies. Facing that first college exam.
Exploring relationships and rearranging the way you feel about yourself. Living on campus or off campus on your own. Growing up in totally new and amazing and frightening ways.
Your relationship with God will probably change, too. The God your parents and your pastor and your youth minister taught you about is alive and well and traveling to college with you. If the truth were known, God is already at college, anxiously awaiting your arrival.
God is there
Sometimes it can feel as if God is as far away as the home you left 700 miles and two weeks ago to come to college. Or the home you leave each day for the commute to classes.
But God is there.
You just have to look. Maybe in some unexpected places. Maybe in some unexpected ways. And maybe in some pretty unexpected situations.
Where to look
Unless you’re lucky enough to have online sign up for classes, you can start with the registration lines because they, like God, are omnipresent and will at times seem eternal. But God will be there. In fellow students. In deans and administrators. Maybe even at the window where you have to pay tuition and room and board.
God is also there handing out soft drinks and frisbees with “Welcome to Campus Ministry” stamped on them. Well, it may not look like God, and it might be called the United Campus Ministry instead of the youth fellowship, but it will be God. Campus ministers and campus ministry students make sure they’re somewhere near orientation for first-year students to let you know someone on campus cares.
Ask the Student Activities Office for contacts with United Methodist student organizations. They should be able to introduce you to the full range of campus life, including faith communities.
Call home. Yes, home. Talk it all over with your hometown pastor. She or he can help you hook up with the campus minister or chaplain at your school and a church close to your campus. From there you can decide how involved to get.
It’s a tried and true college tradition: sleeping in on Sunday morning. A week’s worth of early morning classes. A weekend full of hitting the books and pizza places—hard. You’ve gotta sleep sometime, right?
Besides, no one’s around to make you get up and go. And it’s sometimes scary to go to a new church all alone. After all, there are lots of students who sleep late, don’t go to church, and still make great grades, go out on great dates, and get accepted at the top graduate schools.
After two months of sleeping in, you might find that:
- You have caught up on your sleep.
- You have learned to meditate and pray while sleeping, though the snoring and hymn singing irritate your roommate.
- You get more energy out of Sunday morning worship than you get from sleeping in.
- There’s a great Wednesday night communion service at the campus ministry center.
What you’ll find at the campus ministry center
Sleeping in or opting out aren’t the only options. When you go to the campus ministry center, you may be astounded at what you’ll find. Like other Christians. Friends (and some people you may not hit it off with right away). Fellowship. Support. Free food. People to study with. (And a quiet place to study— sometimes a premium on a college campus.) People to laugh and cry with. Pilgrims on faith journeys similar to yours. People who will like you no matter what the state of your GPA. Lifelong friendships. A date for Saturday night.
A place to go on Saturday night when you don’t feel like dating. A place that will let you sing in the choir, even if you aren’t a voice major. Some place to share your talents and to serve the community. A safe place to talk about your parents’ divorce. A place to stretch your leadership skills. A place to rest. No pressure.
Campus ministry is more than worship
It’s Bible study, prayer, and communion. It’s community service. It’s group dating. It’s growth and security, all at the same time. It’s grief counseling and hearty parties. It’s a place to talk about the pressures of academics and big decisions about sexuality. It’s a chance to share your deepest faith, your worst fears, your biggest doubts, and your major triumphs. It’s your faith community.
One thing about campus ministers
They’re human, too. Sometimes they forget to come by, or they get so busy they can’t stop in to see you right away. Some are better listeners than others. Some of them resonate with your life, and some don’t. Give it a chance. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to search for what you need. Maybe you need a Bible study in your residence hall. Maybe you need to do more community service than the campus ministry offers. Talk with your campus minister or chaplain and with other Christians. Be an active part of your own growth in the faith. God, and some other people, care about you.
What if there’s no campus ministry on your campus?
- See if there’s a college chaplain on campus. Find out if there is a cooperative campus ministry in which your denomination participates.
- Check out the programs and worship at nearby churches.
- Call your home church and see what advice your pastor can give you.
- Find out which faculty and college staff are open to sharing the faith and make friends with them.
- Call the Campus Ministry Section of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry at 615-340-7404 and identify yourself as a student needing the name of your campus minister. They publish a directory that has the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of campus ministers and chaplains on most campuses.
So . . . what about it?
College. God. The next four years will be full of high adventure. Have a great time. Study hard, survive calculus, support your college football team, and don’t forget to call home once in a while — just to check in.