Church Shopping Tips for College Students
A new school year is upon us, and while for many of our Disciples Families, that means a new routine with backpacks, homework, and busses, for others, this season means young adults going off to college!
Disciples churches all over the country are sending out our newly graduated 18-year-olds away from home, and new college graduates might be settling in with a new job in a new location. With that in mind, here are some ideas to pass on to young people who might be church shopping:
Finding Churches (Before You Go):
Ask your pastor or youth sponsor! They might be able to connect you with a local church in the area to which you're moving — they might even know the pastor there, so when you arrive you will have someone looking out for you!
Visit disciples.org/find-congregation to enter your new zip to find what Disciples churches are in your area.
Every person is different when looking for a new church with what they're looking for, what they'd prefer, and what are deal breakers. Here are some things to think through:
Google the church - look at their website and Facebook pages. I usually go to the "pictures" section first, because that is a fairly good indicator of their congregation — what is appropriate dress, what their worship is like, what activities they participate in as a faith community.
On the church's website, read about the staff. What is your initial impression? Do they look like people you would want to attend church with? (Personally, if the staff is comprised of four male pastors, I might be looking elsewhere, but that’s just me….)
Look at their worship times. Do they have different services? Do they have different styles? Which might be a better fit for you?
Does the website have a FAQ page? Many times churches will have a section with "What to expect as a visitor" — this can be helpful in decided what is appropriate to wear (some churches expect everyone show up in jeans and shorts; others in dressy clothes).
Ask a friend to go with you! Trying new things is many times easier when we have someone to share it with.
When You Get to Church:
Don’t be afraid! They are glad to see you at their church, so be sure to ask any information you need. Where is the restroom? Where do I get a bulletin?
Scan the bulletin for anything that seems tricky — is there a part that you'll need to pay a bit more attention to? How do they practice communion?
Pay close attention to the pastor's message. Did you disagree with anything? Did anything stand out to you and make you think differently about a topic?
Call your parents, youth sponsor, or pastor to talk about your experience. You can ask them any questions about what you experienced and get another perspective on things that didn't make sense.
Just because something isn't the same as your home church, that doesn't mean it's bad! I have met many people over the years who don't go to church, because they weren't able to find a church as (welcoming/fun/interesting/whatever) as their home church. Now is the time to try new things!
Moving away from home can be scary, exciting, and liberating all at once! Finding a faith community to make your home — at least temporarily — can help ease that transition.
Sara Nave Fisher is an MDiv student at Lexington Theological Seminary and currently serves as the Director of Youth Ministries at First Christian Church of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Sara and her husband Jonathan - a Disciples of Christ Army Chaplain - have three young kids. While living where the Army sends them, Sara and Jonathan have attended and visited Disciples churches all over the country.