Maybe you’re in first year. You just left home for the first time, and you’re in a new city. You left the only church you’ve ever known back home. Now you have to find a brand new church in a brand new city.
Maybe you’re in second year. Last year you went to the first church you found with your friends. You’ve heard that there are some other great churches around and you would like to try them out, but you don’t know anyone who goes to them.
Maybe you’re going to graduate this year. You’ve spent every year attending a new church or maybe no church at all. Now you’re wondering if it’s even worthwhile to find a church when you only have eight months of school left.
Finding a new church can be a lot like picking a university. You spend time looking it up online, go for a visit, talk with friends and family, and finally decide to give a substantial amount of your income to this organization for the rest of your life. However, the main difference between choosing a university and choosing a church, is that church is not about you. It’s not even about the people you meet in the building. Church is about Jesus. It’s a place where people created by Jesus, who have been saved by Jesus, gather to worship, proclaim, and serve Jesus.
This is not to say that no choice is involved in picking a church; that you can simply walk into any church and that would be great. What you should be looking for, though, when you visit a church, is not extraordinary music or exciting preaching. You should be looking for Jesus. If you can’t find him it’s probably not the best fit for you.
After being married for a year, my wife and I decided to look for a new church that was closer to where we lived. One of the best pieces of advice we received was to visit a church at least three times before writing it off. The first visit to any new location, especially a church, can be intimidating. The anxiety you feel may colour your perception of the church. Sometimes the teaching pastor isn’t preaching, or they may be having a terrible time training a brand new sound technician. Moreover, you may attend the best service of the year during your first visit. Subsequent visits help to give a more realistic picture of how the church looks and sounds on a regular basis.
Take your time and be patient. Finding a church to invest in won’t happen in one week or maybe even during one semester. Keep searching and praying that God leads you to the congregation he has prepared for you.
Once you’ve decided on a church to give a try, the worst thing you can do is to simply attend. Show up early and stay late. Meet people and take them up on invitations for lunch. Better yet, start serving. There is no faster way to discover a church than by serving in one of their ministries. For students with four or fewer years to invest in a local church, getting involved is important. It doesn’t matter if you serve in the nursery, on the worship team, or as a greeter. All of these roles are important and they can help uncover the values and valuable people in the church.
Whether you are looking for a new local church or whether you have neglected church for a while, take some time this year to find a place to worship and serve Jesus. Look for people who authentically love Jesus; people who boldly worship and proclaim him. Look for a place where you can clearly see Jesus in the congregation. Take your time and enjoy the process! Even if you don’t commit to every church you go to, you’re sure to meet amazing Christ-followers along the way.