The following is a guest post by Desirae of thefullestlifeblog.com
I’m a teacher and a grad student, but six short years ago, I was a freshman in college. Six years go extremely fast, and so did the four that I was in college.
Some days I miss college. I “loved” college, but not for the reasons that many do. I loved college because the community that I experienced there was the most unique community that I will probably ever experience.
College is one of the best opportunities to build genuine, authentic community. However, many don’t experience it.
Many people build friendships in college that are centered on a similar course studies, random people that live in the same buildings, or maybe the people that like to party the same way as they do. These similar interests and living situations may build good friendships, but I believe that there is something that can build an even more solid friendship foundation.
The single most important thing that made my college experience wonderful was the community that I involved myself with that was centered in Christ.
I went into college from a very small high school. I didn’t go to the biggest university ever (Slippery Rock University is a small university in Western PA), but it was much bigger than the graduating class of 106 that I experienced back home.
When I got to college, I remember immediately feeling lonely as my family left me there. Then I met my roommate- my first form of community. We weren’t alike in a lot of ways, but we did have one thing in common- our faith in Christ.
I came into college not sure if I was going to do the “church thing.” During my senior year of high school, I lost a lot of my Christian friends to moving or falling away from the faith, and I was just a little bit bitter.
Thank God for the community he provided me in my roommate, because after a few weeks of me doing my own thing, and doing stupid things, Nikki convinced me to go to church with her. When I agreed to it and went, I knew right away I needed God, and I needed His people.
I learned a lot from college (luckily, since that is the purpose of going), but one of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to find and build community. The following three ways summarize my own experience in community building in college.
Find your Community through Getting Involved with a Campus Ministry
I first got involved with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ as it was known as then), and met so many wonderful people. I joined a Bible study, and then sophomore year I lead my own Bible study for freshmen girls. With everything I became involved in, I met new, wonderful people, and my people, the people God led to me and me to them, came into my life.
In sophomore year, I tried a new campus ministry, Christian Coalition of Outreach, or CCO. I knew right away that this was the ministry I was to be involved in. It was hard leaving one ministry for another, but on our campus most Christians understood that they were part of a greater community, no matter what ministry they felt was best for them.
If you are a Christian on a secular or a Christian campus, I cannot stress the importance of community. Join a fellowship or campus ministry, and pray that God will gift you the good gift of like-minded friends. I know when first arriving at college, I found it hard to believe that anyone around me had the same faith as me. But I realized that when opening my eyes and branching out to different ministries, I found an incredible amount of Christian friends.
Find your Community by Living with Like-Minded Friends
I do not believe in living in a “Christian Bubble” or any type of bubble, for that matter. I do believe that Jesus dined with sinners, and approached and befriended people that were different than him- much different than him- like people living in sin- the people that others that were living in faith would have turned away.
But the people he did life with, the people he lived closest with, were His disciples. I believe that, if at all possible, we should do the same. We should make our company with people of all types in this world- but we should hold closest in our community to people that are like-minded, people that are walking the same path as we are. And the best way to do that is to live with them.
In college, you have the amazing opportunity to live with roommates. This can be a beautiful thing- and often times you cannot choose your roommate in your first year, but when you are able to choose your roommates, do so wisely.
Live with others that will build you up in faith. Live with the people that will show you God’s love, and you can do the same in return. Live with the friends that will tell you that you are making a decision that will not honor God and be honest with you about it.
I had the most wonderful roommates in my junior and senior year that did this for me, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I grew so much in my faith and learned so much about God’s grace and God’s love.
Find your community by going to church.
Do you think your campus ministry is a replacement for church? Let me tell you why I think otherwise. The body of Christ is not represented by a group of college students. Of course, the group of college students that is present in your campus ministry is part of the body of Christ, but the benefit of going to church while you are in college is that you get to actually experience a picture of the body.
One of the worst parts of college is you are surrounded by all people of a similar age. I happen to really like people that are my parents’ age, my grandparents’ age, middle schoolers, toddlers, you name it.
I don’t like only being able to interact with people that are the same age as me; I like different life experiences and perspectives. When it comes to the body of Christ and a relationship with God, I believe it is of the utmost importance to learn from others in different life stages.
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give you when finding community in college is to join a local church and get involved.
Meet others that are in a different season of life than you and get to know them well. Have dinner in their homes and invite them to your dorm. Befriend a woman that can become your “college-mom,” and volunteer in the nursery, or whatever it is that God has gifted you to do in the church. This will completely enrich your college community and experience in general.
If you are currently in college, I encourage you to think about the three ways to find community that I just outlined. How have you found community in these ways? How could you begin to find community, or build more community by doing any of these things?
I one hundred percent believe that college is as much about the people and friendships that you make as it is about the academics. Take the opportunity to build a lasting community that will grow your faith and shape you as you move forward in such an important season of your life.
How have you found Christian community on your campus?
Desirae is a 20-something, 8th grade teacher living in Virginia. She loves Jesus, her husband, coffee, health, and real-talk. You can find her talking about all of these things and more over at The Fullest Life Blog.