Life after college can be hard, but also full of meaning and hope. With graduation looming for many of you, what should you know about the world that waits for you on the other side of your diploma? What can you expect? What can you learn from those who have gone before you? In our 6 part series 'Life After College' we hope you find a few significant things to help prepare you for what's ahead.
CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL
Ready or not, the real world awaits. You can (and should!) look back and see all the ways you’ve grown in college, the friends you’ve made along the way. My prayer for graduating seniors, however, is that college is not the peak of their spiritual life. My hope is that it is simply a launching point, and that the best is yet to come as you continue to take steps of faith to follow God throughout your lives. And what is the biggest part of the equation in whether that happens or whether you begin to slowly drift away? Christian community. And where is that found in adult life 98% of the time (according to my well-researched statistics…)? The local church.
God designed us to live in community, and we see the early church forming in the book of Acts immediately after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Paul writes mainly to churches—groups of believers who were breaking bread together (which means they were friends who hung out), studying Scripture and praying together, serving the poor, and so boldly sharing their faith and living such transformed lives that more people were constantly joining them (Acts 2:42-47).
But maybe you’re moving to a new place or haven’t every really gotten involved in a church on your own—where should you begin and what should you expect? Here’s a little list I’ve compiled from my experiences:
1. DECIDE WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, AND GO BEYOND THE SUPERFICIAL
If you begin the search without deciding what you’re looking for, you’ll end up making pro/con lists in your head based on how cool the music is or whether the pastor was funny or whether the people wore cool enough flannels. When I was looking for a church after college, these were some of the main things I looked for:
- Gospel-centered. Is the good news of Jesus woven into everything—sermons, music, mission?
- Committed to Biblical teaching. Pro tip: every church has a statement of faith and it’s usually on their website—do I agree with it?
- On mission in the city and world. Are the people living on mission—sharing the gospel, investing in missions, moving toward the needs of the community? Is it a mission I’m compelled to be a part of?
- Community in which I can grow and invest.
- Key question: Will I be challenged to know God more and take steps of faith here or just be comfortable?
In college, it can be easy—you are handed a community where you live, actively pursued by your small group leader, invited into discipleship, and maybe even given a ministry. These things take a lot more intentionality after college. When I first started going to my church, I had to make a deal with myself that I would meet someone new every week before I was allowed to leave. Once, I was about to drive away when I realized I hadn’t talked to anyone. I went back inside and awkwardly met someone and awkwardly chatted for a little bit. But I eventually got involved in a small group and built relationships with people that grew in depth; however (like most things worth doing—a frustrating fact) it took time, intentionality, and commitment. But I’m so thankful for that community now.
3. GET INTO A SMALL GROUP, AND STICK WITH THEM WHEN IT GETS HARD
Take a step of faith, email a pastor and ask what small groups exist near you. There may be people in different life stages or people you don’t automatically connect with—but this is an opportunity to develop a fuller understanding of God’s character and of what living out the gospel looks like throughout all the seasons of life
4. COMMIT AND SERVE, AND DO IT FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS
Fight the urge to be a consumer. It’s so easy to be a consumer, attending church on Sundays and expecting the church to simply meet your needs. But if you choose this path, you’ll miss so much of God’s design for the church and, likely, fail to grow in your relationship with Him. Instead, find a good church, choose to invest there, and take the posture of a servant. How can you invest your gifts and strengths into the mission of the church? Maybe you only have the time at first to serve occasionally in children’s church or greeting at the doors—start there!
The church is simply this: broken people worshipping their Savior and inviting others to know Him. It won’t be perfect, but God loves the church. These are His people. Find a place where you can grow in your relationship with Him and be part of His mission, and commit! It won’t (and shouldn’t) be effortless, but it will be worth it.