Trying to find a local church to attend while you’re away at college can often be difficult.
Most churches probably aren’t advertising on campus, you might not find an active Christian group at your school or, if you do, you might not be able to attend right away, and finding other students willing to get up on a Sunday morning to go to church can often be near impossible.
It’s important for your faith and your walk with Christ to get involved in a local church, but how do you find the right one?
The Church Finding Checklist
Here at 8 steps you can take when trying to find a local church when you’re away at college:
1. Know what you’re looking for.
It may seem pretty elementary, but knowing what you’re looking for in a church is the best place to start.
Make a list of non-negiotables you want in a church — those qualities, attributes, or opportunities that a church must have and that you won’t compromises on — and a list of what you desire in a church, but could live without if need be.
This will help you to weed out the churches that don’t fit your criteria and help you focus only on those that do.
2. Ask a friend where they go.
Did you come across a friend who already attends a local church? Ask where they go!
Your friend probably already dwindled out the churches he or she doesn’t like, and likely found a church that will help you grow as well.
3. Search for local churches online.
Most churches have at least a minimal web presence, so do a quick Google search for churches in your area.
Check out their websites, see what they have to offer, and make a list of churches you want to visit.
4. Read their doctrine / beliefs.
Let’s be honest, reading a church’s list of doctrine or beliefs doesn’t make for a fun time — but it’s incredibly important if you want to find a church you can easily fit into.
Most churches will have similar list of beliefs, with minor differences (like how they baptize people, what they believe on the Holy Spirit, if they allow women in leadership), while others will be completely different.
Even a quick scan through a church’s list of beliefs will help you get a feel for the kind of church they are and what they teach every week.
You can see Ignite’s List of Beliefs for a reference.
5. Look at ministries they offer.
When on a church’s website, see what ministries they offer. This will be a quick way to tell if it’s a church geared toward helping college students, like yourself, grow in their faith.
You’ll likely find that most churches don’t have a full-fledged college ministry. It’s why ministries like Ignite exist. But if all they offer is for families with kids, or for retirees, chances are you might be the only young adult in the building — and the messages might not be geared towards you.
6. Visit service a few times.
Websites can only show you show much about a church. At some point, you need to get out of bed and start visiting local churches to get a better feel for who they are.
Understand, it usually takes more than one visit to get a feel for a church. You may have picked a weekend when the main pastor was away, or they were doing a special service, or maybe all their technology broke down and they frantically threw together what they could.
Best practice is to visit a church a few times before making a judgment call.
7. Give it time.
No church is going to be like your home church.
You won’t know anyone there the first few times you visit. The preaching and worship will be different. You won’t know where the bathrooms are, how service normally goes, or what to expect when you walk in.
Give it time. Eventually you’ll find the feel of this new church and may even begin to like it more than your church at home.
8. Get involved!
You don’t truly know a church until you get involved — so find a way to get involved! Help with the worship team, be a door greeter, see if you can help with the youth group.
Remember though, your college campus is your mission field. God sent you there not just for an education, but to share your faith with those you would never come in contact with anywhere else.
Get involved in the local church, but make sure you aren’t so involved that you stop reaching out and being involved with a college ministry at school.
Take the Next Step
The tips above will help you take the next step in finding a local church to attend while you’re away at college.
If you’re already involved in an Ignite group at your school, talk to your leaders or post in the Facebook group and ask for recommendations of churches to attend. They may even be able to arrange car pooling so you don’t have to go alone.