The Challenges of Attending Church in College

The Challenges of Attending Church in College

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When I moved away to college, I started out in a new city with all new faces. As I've mentioned before, I had no means of transportation other than my feet, and it could have been really easy to skip the hassle of finding a ride for church on Sunday mornings.

As a college student, it can be so easy to find reasons not to attend church on any given Sunday morning. I should know; unfortunately, I used some of them! Here are three popular excuses college students use to justify skipping church  and why they shouldn't be used.

1. I have too much homework. If you think about it, the hour and a half you spend in church on Sunday morning will not take away from homework time. It might mean you have to skip watching three episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix as a means of procrastination later in the afternoon. You might have good intentions with this excuse, but at some point during the day, you'll spend that hour and a half doing something unproductive anyway. Why not spend it wisely and just go to church?  

It might mean you have to prioritize better throughout the week so you can have your Sunday as a Sabbath day. If you really need Sunday to study, find a good church with a Saturday night service and attend that instead. 

2. I can't find a ride. While this excuse can be very valid depending on the location of your college, it's also not a good one. If you attend a Christian university, chances are good most of your peers will be heading off campus for church Sunday morning. Ask around your dorm or post something on the school classifieds, and see if anyone is willing to give you a ride. While I was looking for a church, I spent half my freshman year going with a friend to her church and the other half of the year walking to a church down the street.

The benefit of asking others for a ride to church is that you won't have to try new churches alone. If your close friends attend a nearby church, chances are good you'll find it a good fit for you, too. Another great benefit is that you'll have an accountability group. If you regularly get a ride from someone, everyone else who carpools with them will keep you accountable for attending every Sunday, and you'll find an instant church community with them.

3. I already attend several campus chapels every week, or I'm involved in the Christian ministry on campus. If this is you, great! By all means, be involved and take advantage of ministries on your campus. However, these activities do not replace church itself. They do not replace the community you can find in church. We are perfectly capable of studying Scripture on our own, but it is important to fellowship with the body of Christ in a church community. 

 On campus, you are surrounded by people your own age. You aren't subject to the wisdom of older Christian men and women, and you aren't blessed by the accountability they can offer. You miss out on interacting with children and learning to bless and be blessed by those in different stages of life. There is incredible value in immersing yourself into a diverse church community.

What are some of the excuses you find yourself using to justify skipping church? For those of us out of college, what excuses do you use now or find others using?

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  • -- "I was up partying or bar hopping / watching a movie wtih friends /playing that video game all night"

  • --I attended church (At my parents church when I lived at home, and at a church closer to school after I moved out) throughout college. I would say that an important add-on to point number three is "don't just show up at church and be a sponge" even if you are engaged in campus chapels/ministry/etc. Engage. Get to know people. Network. I didn't do this until my last year of college, really, and I wish I had done it right away.

  • --Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a decent congregation near the campus when you have few options of transportation. A good congregation allows for socializing and offers spiritual guidance to the young adults. There should be involvement in community. If you prioritize your schedule, you should have enough room for homework, church, and Doctor Who.

  • --Great points :) Amy. I attended church every Sunday when I lived in Campus. The church I attended had a satellite church in our University campus :) which was perfect for us. The funny part is when I was done uni my house mates told my other Christian housemates "you all need to go to church on Sundays, Deborah never missed church though she was in final year" It was great to know the non-christian house mates kept the Christians accountable :) God works in so many ways, I pray that my other housemates will find Christ one day. Thought share this with you all.

  • --"I'm just going to be here for college, so there isn't really any point in joining. I'll just attend regularly," was always a popular one.

  • --Getting a ride in college was difficult. Most of my friends went to the church down the street, and I went there for about a year just because it was close, no other reason. Sophomore year, I made new friends and started going to church with them. The college group was fantastic, especially junior year. I was happy to go for that even though I never would have gone to the church otherwise. I won't bad-mouth it, but let's just say it was a bad fit.

    For students going to Christian colleges, I think it can be especially hard to get a ride if you want to go to a church that is a different denomination from the one your school is affiliated with. I did know a couple of people who went to another one, but it was pretty rare. Even a lot of people who didn't grow up in the denomination went to it in college either because they liked it, because their friends were going, or both.

    This wasn't a problem for me for most of college, but my senior year I started reading and thinking a lot, and I slowly reached the point where my conscience couldn't take it anymore. Fortunately, I had a car by then. It took a little while to find a church, but I think I finally have. It will be really wonderful to have a place to belong.        

  • Also, I wouldn't be surprised if some students at Christian colleges use the excuse that they don't go to church because they've been to mandatory chapel all week. I didn't, but I can see how people would. I loved the smaller chapels because we could have deep and challenging speakers and discussions, but main chapel was almost always go-through-the-motions, spoon-feed-the-masses, whatever-you-do-don't-step-on-anyone's-toes! People went to the small chapels because they wanted to (or at least more than main chapel), so the atmosphere was also a lot more positive.      

  • "They do not replace the community you can find in church. We are perfectly capable of studying Scripture on our own, but it is important to fellowship with the body of Christ in a church community. "

    i disagree. i had campus ministry staff building into me, and studied scripture with them and other believers. and on top of that, i had NO time for church in college. between my involvement in campus crusade (emcee of weekly all campus meeting, leadership team, bible study, discipleship) and the heavy workload that came with my major, all i could've done with church would be sunday attendance. and in my mind, that was "box checking." you shouldn't go to church just to be able to say 'i go to church.' i had community, bible study, discipleship, worship time, and service through crusade.

    in a perfect world, maybe i could've found a way to get involved. but i don't want people to feel guilty and like they have to 'check the church box' even though their life is already filled up with other awesome ministry opportunities. bottom line; are you growing and connected to christ-following community? awesome.

  • I agree with MDick to an extent. while there are benefits to the multigenerational aspects (and other benefits) of a local church, that does not automatically mean that it is better than a campus ministry. afterall, the church is a body of believers. if a campus ministry can offer the same things as a church (fellowship, discipleship, etc) then I would say it is equally valid. I personally do attend a local church as I do see the benefots in having fellowship with people other than just college students, and it does give me a place to invite someone if they are in a different stage of life (ex: they have kids...campus ministries usu aren't equipped for that), but I'm not very involved in my church because of my heavy involvement in my campus ministry.

  • @MDick

    <em>all i could've done with church would be sunday attendance. and in my mind, that was "box checking." you shouldn't go to church just to be able to say 'i go to church.' i had community, bible study, discipleship, worship time, and service through crusade.</em>

    You know, you may want to be careful with how much you deride Sunday attendance as just "box checking", because, if you are prepared and attending Sunday worship, that's corporate worship of God, and Jesus clearly intended for Christians to worship and honor the Father.  "If you love me, you'll keep my commandments."  One has to learn to crawl before walking, and walk before running, and clearly there are both commands to honor and worship God and to hear the exposition of scripture through preaching; one of the jobs of the local church is to feed and teach the flock, and to turn young, fervent Apolloses Acts into the solid rock Apolloses of Corinthians.

  • --MDick, and all who are objecting to what he(?) said:

    Growing up in America, it's easy to confuse the 50s era ideal of church with "the gathering together." Remember, one of the ways the early church worked is communities of believers gathering together.

    How does a college campus not equal a community? Lets remember to not confuse the church building with The Church.

    I think it's awesome that MDick is finding the Church right there on campus. (Also, for those of you who will freak out, wondering how he(?) will ever transition to a "traditional" church after college, Cru really focuses on that very thing with seniors.)

    As for you, MDick -- from one Cru alum (now *cough* interning with a Cru ministry) to another -- my only regret with college is I didn't do more with Cru, and didn't go to more Winter Conferences. :) So honestly, you won't regret the time you invest in Cru.

  • --*re-reads MDick's post* Ops. It sounds like you've already graduated too. :D

  • --I respectfully disagree with Joanna.

    "i had campus ministry staff building into me, and studied scripture with them and other believers. and on top of that, i had NO time for church in college. between my involvement in campus crusade (emcee of weekly all campus meeting, leadership team, bible study, discipleship) and the heavy workload that came with my major, all i could've done with church would be sunday attendance."

    This, is EXACTLY the problem with Campus ministry, well summed up in a neat paragraph. Campus ministry is NOT the church and does not constitute a "gathering together" of the body in the same way that a church does. Unlike the picture of the church we find in scripture, where all are welcomed and encouraged to attend, campus ministries are inherently exclusive to college students, often with student "staff" (or recently graduated staff) providing "leadership" and "discipleship." There's nothing wrong with this for a season, but overreliance on this kind of hyper-focused "the church is all about OUR generation" type ministries are long-term unhelpful UNLESS the transition from Campus Ministry to church is made well.

  • --I went to church just about every Sunday all through college (including study abroad^^). I was able to find a good church within walking distance. A couple friends from campus ministry and I would meet up and walk there together Sunday mornings. We'd come back around 11 to the cafeteria waffle brunch, where our non-Christian friends were staggering in in their pajamas :P Then we'd have breakfast together. It was really nice, to share a meal with fellow Christians before we had to hole up and go back to writing papers^^

  • --mrs. ashley, I am curious as to how you define church.

    Age doesn't determine spiritual maturity. and sure in a campus ministry you lack a variety of age groups, but that is true for many churches as well. I might be wrong on this, but I believe in the Every Nation church (one of the largest churches in the phillipines) most of there leaders are under 40 (possibly even under 30). honestly, the only requirement for me to disciple someone else is that I should be further along in my walk with Jesus then they. if someone gets saved at 50, there is nothing wrong with a 20 year old discipling them. the same is true in a campus ministry. even if you have "student staff" there's nothing wrong with that imo as long as they are being discipled and are willing to disciple others.

    As I said in my earlier post, campus ministries have different strengths and weaknesses than the "traditional church." you said in your post that the traditional church is welcoming to everyone where as campus ministries are only for college students. if the former were true, so most churches wouldn't be so segregated. (Another convo for another day). but many college students who don't know Jesus are not likely to go to a church, but might be more likely to attend something on campus. many churches are not equipped to reach today's college students whereas campus ministries are. you are more apt to reach those who you are around. if college students are around colleg students, that's who they will reach, hence the campus ministry being made up of mostly college students. this is the job of the church. to reach those who are not a part of the church. if a campus ministry can do this, that is a good thing. but it takes time and energy from the people who are a part of it. if a college student is lmtd on time (most are) that time can be invested in the campus ministry they are a part of to reach their campus (the community they are a part of) or they caninvest that time in the local church which reaches a community that they might not really be that involved in. which should they do? this is between them and God, but neither is wrong and neither should be discounted as a legit "body of believers" (ie the church).

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