College means change. For anyone transitioning into college, you have probably realized there will be big changes in your life no matter if you are traveling away from home or commuting to school. I was afraid of what change meant. I went into college, embracing certain changes and not others. I grew up in a Christian home, so I knew that I wanted to keep up my faith away from home. But I was scared of what it meant if my roommates, suitemates or other friends didn’t want to join me to find Bible studies, churches etc. I didn’t want to be alone in my search for Christian community and I was also being surrounded by a culture that did not always embrace Jesus.Because of the typical “college culture” that exists today, it is sometimes hard to be a Christian on a college campus. In fact, it is very hard. And the more I grow in my faith, the more I realize how easy it is to turn away from the Lord and follow other ways.
So I have a list of suggestions to help God transform you in college instead of college transforming you.
I am writing this post with my mind on this verse that I read on Francesca’s blog.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”Romans 12:1 (The Message)
1. Get involved with Christian organizations. This is my number one advice. No matter what type of college you go to, in order to keep your faith and strengthen your faith, you need a Christian community of people your age. There are a number of Christian organizations on campuses: Intervarsity, Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), Campus Outreach, Baptist Student Union, Young Life College, Presbyterian Student Fellowship, as well as many, many others that are unique to your school that cross over many different denominations. I am involved with Intervaristy Christian Fellowship and Sigma Alpha Omega®, a Christian sorority. One of the biggest blessings has been my small groups and Bible studies in college. Sometimes we just hang out and talk, sometimes we go deeper. Sometimes we have sleepovers in random classrooms and sometimes we win date auctions. But I can’t tell you how much these people have aided my grow in Christ and how getting to know people change my perspective. You come to your school for a reason. So get to know people on your campus. Build community. This is the time to do it. This is your new home.
2. Find a church community (or three). I am still working on this one, because I have two churches back at school that I will be involved with next year. But being a part of a church is so much different than a school organization. Churches offer you a place to meet people of all ages and they get you outside of your campus bubble (which is so needed, trust me!). You need the separation from your school, work and personal and spiritual life. Being a part of a church also lets you meet people who do not go to your school. Surrounding yourself with different people and different backgrounds is one of the most important aspects of community. It helps you grow and it helps you learn.
3. Be open to different spiritual practices and mechanisms. Is mediating your thing? Praying? Reading? Fasting? People grow in their faith in many different ways, and you might know what works for you best. But being in a new place on a new campus can give you inspiration to start a new routine in your spiritual life or seek out new ways to grow closer to God. For example, many of my friends in my small group give up things for Lent. I have never done that before, but I thought about it and became more open about the idea. I also started a prayer journal and realized the amazing ways God speaks to me through writing and reading. I can’t wait to try other ways to spiritually grow closer to God and see what they are like!
4. Pray to God about your struggles. Homesickness. Tough tests. Piles of papers. Acceptance. Loneliness. Worry. Pressure. College is one of the most stressful times of my life, but it has also been one of the best times for me to learn how to deal with my struggles. I have realized struggling is okay. Having problems is okay. We are all human and that’s the way God made us. So instead of worrying about your schoolwork, your future, your social groups, that party, or doing laundry, give it all to God and realize that He is in control over the ordinary. He is with you every step of the way.
5. Find your favorite way to personally worship. “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of yours wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. ” – Psalm 63: 6-7 Develop your routine and intentionally add Jesus in. Start reading your devotional. It will help. Start a Bible reading plan. Above all else, find what fuels your time with the Lord. Find what fuels your relationship with the Lord. Find what fuels your life.6. Develop your life philosophies. Find what God calls you to do. I’m talking about the little things. Pray about travel, about school, about applying for a job, about alcohol, about partying, about your friends who are struggling, about food, about your lifestyle, about your online life. I am in the midst of rethinking my food philosophy. I am starting to make healthier choices to live better and offer my refreshed and energized self to Jesus.
Remember, it’s not going to be easy. There will be suffering and sorrows, as the Bible says. But college is supposed to be full of life-changing moments. Let’s make them come from our Creator, our Lord and our provider. God put you on your college campus for a reason. Let’s live according to his purpose.