I grew up in church, faithfully attended youth group, and was pretty serious about my faith throughout high school. So when I came to college, I knew I had a choice to make.
Did I want the next four years to be a time of spiritual growth or would I drift away from my faith?
I chose the first option. In my first week of school, I joined an InterVarsity chapter. Since then, God has been shaping me and growing my faith.
For many students, the transition to college means setting faith aside. In fact, there are a lot of scary statistics out there about the number of Christians who lose their faith in college.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. College can be a season of significant spiritual growth. Committing to spiritual disciplines and finding a Christian community can change your experience on campus and prepare you for a lifelong relationship with Jesus.
Here are seven practical suggestions for growing spiritually during your years in college.
1. Get to know your Bible
You’re going to be assigned plenty of reading for class, but take time to study Scripture. God speaks truth through his Word. As you read, you will gain understanding of God’s character and purposes.
Try meditating on Scripture throughout the day. If you find a verse or passage that is significant to you, reflect on it while walking to class.
Prayer is having a conversation with God. As with a friend, you grow in relationship through conversation. Prayer helps us get to know God.
Spend time with the Lord each day to pray and reflect on Scripture. Daily quiet times help develop relationship with him, discern his will, and grow in love for his Word.
3. Find Christian community
Finding a community of believers on campus is invaluable. Christian community encourages you to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Get connected to a local church. Meeting different types of Christians broadens our understanding of the body of Christ. Learn from older believers who have been following Jesus for many years.
4. Share your faith
The Gospel is good news. Be ready to share it! Ask God for opportunities to be a witness wherever you go – in class, on the street, and in your dorm.
Join non-Christian groups on campus. Like Paul in Athens (see Acts 17), be ready to share the Gospel and your faith in a relevant way, whenever you have the opportunity.
Share your faith through the way you live. Let your actions reflect your love for God. Treat people with respect and honor those you live with and sit next to in class.
5. Serve others
You are now a missionary and your campus is your mission field, so think like a missionary. Thinking like a missionary helps us see the spiritual and physical needs of other people. Respond to the needs of others with Christ’s love that is in you. Look for ministries you can partner with to serve your city and love your neighbors.
6. Think theologically
Living as a thoughtful Christian means learning the theological truths of the Bible. As you read scripture, find books that will also help develop your theology. InterVarsity Press offers books on a variety of topics that can help you unpack scripture and wrestle with difficult issues.
Theology affects the lens through which we view all areas of our life – including studies. Use discernment in the classroom. As a Christian student, you don’t have to fear classes that challenge biblical principles. Instead, you can walk into the classroom confidently, knowing the truth of God’s Word.
7. Live in gratitude
Look for the good. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Thinking on the good, the true, and the beautiful creates in us gratitude to God for all his gifts. As you grow in gratitude, you will see your classmates and your campus differently. You will see them as good gifts from God.
This week, we’re posting practical tips for following Jesus as a college student. Read Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Lauren Anderson is an InterVarsity student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison studying Journalism and Mass Communication.