Only 37 percent of Vanguard students are currently serving in a church during their time here, according to a Lion’s Den poll. On a campus where community and service are stressed, and with Religion being the fourth largest major on campus, why aren’t more young adults on a Christian campus involved in church?
Church should feel like home, but that is not always the case. A sanctuary should be a welcoming space for everyone, but even my church did not feel like that when I first arrived. It only started being my safe haven when I began to serve and put effort into it being my home.
And it will be hard to accomplish this by yourself. We’re created for community; ministry is created for family. Jesus, the greatest example of ministry, had community. He had 12 disciples that went everywhere with him. If Jesus had community in ministry, then why don’t Vanguard students?
Last year, I wasn’t plugged into a church. I sampled different places when the occasion arose. I feel like this is a common case for a number of students. You move out to this new place and lose that community that you grew up in (if you grew up in church) and it’s difficult to find the place that feels like a good fit. With all that pressure to find the “right” church, and all the chaos that is college, students often put church on the back burner.
I only started attending church regularly when I got involved in junior high ministry and had a reason to go. It started with my roommate asking if I wanted to go to a meeting to figure out my spiritual gifts, and I ended up staying and completing the program to get a free t-shirt. I ended up with a free shirt and being a leader to some pretty awesome kids, so I guess it worked out in my favor. Becoming a junior high leader has changed my life; serving in a church and becoming part of a community—a family—has changed my life.
Before I was plugged into church, I church hopped occasionally, but typically got my “Jesus fix” at the weekly chapels. Chapel is wonderful, but it is not church. Even the chaplains tell us that chapel is not equivalent to the community that church provides.
We can’t assume that because we go to chapels twice a week or that an occasional church visit will be enough. We can’t expect our religion classes or our community on campus to be enough. Church isn’t an option for Christians. It was not designed to be. We are meant to be the body of Christ, and we cannot accomplish that alone.
I never realized how critical it was to have a church community until I was quite literally stuck with no one to turn to. Last December, when I was flying back home to Seattle for break, my flight kept getting delayed to the point of it being cancelled, and I needed to rebook it for the next day. I was already checked out of my dorm, and all of my friends had left that previous week. I was all alone. I called my roommate in tears trying to figure out what to do. She texted the other youth leaders in our group chat and in a matter of minutes, I had several calls and texts from people who were ready to come pick me up and take care of me.
That is what it means to be a body of Christ, to have community. When life had spun out of my control, I had a team of people willing to come behind me and help me through. If I didn’t have that church community, I would have slept in that airport by myself. Instead, I had amazing friends that drove out to where I was to take care of me. They exemplified the love and very nature of Christ in their actions. That is why it is so important to have community. Life sucks, but it sucks less when you have people that will help you through the rough spots.
Church community looks different for everyone. Not everyone is made to serve in youth ministry, and that’s good. If everyone was meant to be a youth leader then there would be no one to help greet people in the mornings, work childcare, or help set up for the special events. There are small roles in the church that still teach what it means to serve. You don’t have to take on a whole ministry to be a servant, you just have to be willing to actually show up and serve.
College is when you’re supposed to figure out your life, to step into adulthood. What better way to create a generation of selfless, considerate adults than to start with a generation of young, committed servants? Christ’s greatest example of leadership was him serving, him being in community. Students are sadly mistaken if they believe that they can be a leader without first being a servant.