By Wes Foster

Your Go-to Guide for Finding a Church

Where are you looking to deepen the roots of your faith and flourish during your college years?

If you’re saying, “InterVarsity, duh! That’s why I’m reading this blog!” then you’re partially correct. InterVarsity exists to help you pay attention to God’s transforming work in your life while you’re in college, to equip you to bring renewal to your campus, and to send you out as a world changer.

But if you’re connecting solely with a campus ministry during these important years, you will miss something important that God has for you. The truth is that God also wants to bless you through partnering with a local church—and he wants to use you as a blessing to a local congregation.

So how do you decide which church to get involved in? Here are a few dos and don’ts for your search.

1. Pray.

Of course, right? Ask for God’s guidance in finding the right place to worship and share life with others. Be honest with him about how you’re feeling about trying out new churches. And most importantly, listen for how God might want to shape you through this journey.

  • Do expect to receive God’s guidance during this process.
  • Don’t stop praying when you get to step two.

2. Declare your major.

And by this I mean, decide what matters most to you. Of course you want to find a church that is centered on the gospel. But what’s most important after that? A strong theological tradition? The style of worship? The presence or absence of cookies?

Once you’ve decided what values you’d like to see expressed in a church culture, you’ll know what to begin looking for. Just remember to hold those values loosely; God may want to stretch you in new ways during this season.

  • Do decide what values are most important to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.

3. Do your homework.

Chances are there will be hundreds of churches in your area, and you can’t visit them all. How can you begin to narrow your search? Start by asking people you meet on campus where they go to church and why they like it. Campus ministries also typically have a handful of churches they recommend to new students. But it can be helpful to do your own research online as well. Most church websites detail all the information that you’ll want to know right away, things like:

  • What do they believe?
  • Where and when do they meet?
  • How can you begin to serve? 
  • What kind of pants should you wear?

This is an easy way to scratch some potential churches off your list, as you might notice “red flags” just from reading the website. For example, if a church believes that the only true inspired translation of Scripture is Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel, then you might have second thoughts. Or what if only the men are allowed to sing worship songs and the women must perform an interpretive dance? That’s weird. And if tithing is mandated at 80 percent of your income—well, then just try to become a paid staff member!

  • Do invest some time learning as much as you can before visiting a church.
  • Don’t waste your time visiting a church that clearly isn’t for you.

4. Stop procrastinating.

Don’t get stuck on the homework step forever. Take this process seriously. If you want to have a church to call home by the end of your first semester (a good goal), you can’t spend this month sleeping in or traveling every weekend.

Decide how many days you can “tithe” toward finding a church. I recommend visiting three new churches three times each. That gives you a chance to genuinely experience different options and yet still leaves a few weekends free to go see family, attend an InterVarsity weekend conference, and participate in the latest trendy hipster social cause. Once you have a plan for this semester’s Sundays, share it with a friend—and invite others to join you. 

  • Do visit multiple churches multiple times.
  • Don’t go alone; involve others who are also looking for a church home.

5. Enroll full time.

Now it’s time to commit. Everything inside of you is going to resist this step. It’s okay to simply consume the sermons on Sundays and never contribute to the mission of the church, right? Wrong.

College can be a season when you experience some of the most intense spiritual growth of your life. Let that growth bear fruit in your soul, on your campus, and in the community that your church serves. By being a committed member of your church, you will experience Jesus in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise on campus, and your church will experience Jesus in ways that they couldn’t without you, the super-missional college student. Honor God by serving his church faithfully.

  • Do commit sacrificially to a local church.
  • Don’t stop seeing your campus as a mission field.

Finding a local church may not be your first priority as you settle into life as a college student. But being active in the church is a lifelong pursuit for a Christian. If you don’t get serious about it now, when will you?

Wes Foster lives in Orlando, Florida, where he and his wife, Denisse, serve as InterVarsity staff at the University of Central Florida.

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