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How to Navigate Campus Ministries

It’s no surprise that entering college is a big adjustment. From living essentially on your own to being far away from family and having much more free time than in high school, it can be overwhelming to even the most flexible of students. With all of these changes going on, it can be difficult to navigate how exactly to make space for your faith during your time in college. Maybe you are far away from home, and you had to leave the only church community you have ever known. If you are like me, maybe college seems like a good time for exploration of religious beliefs, but you are not sure how to go about it without a parent or other trusted adult to guide you. Even though it seems daunting, it is actually quite easy to find a religious community in which you feel loved, accepted and welcomed. There are several key principles that I followed when navigating campus ministries, and while my experience is related to Christian ministries, I am confident that these tips can be helpful to students wanting to pursue any branch of faith during their time in college.

Try to find a group with members in which you have something in common.

While we of course are connected by a common religious belief, I have found it beneficial to find a group of people in which you share something else in common. For me, this looked like joining the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), in which I have been able to connect with fellow believers in the healthcare field. Being in this group has allowed me to discuss the unique experiences that I have had as a student pursuing a health career, and it has allowed for discussions about how I can balance pursuing my faith with the commitment to my own future practice. Some of my friends have found it enriching to join Bible studies composed entirely of women. In these studies, they have been able to connect over the unique experiences and challenges they have faced as female believers, and what it means to be women living out their faith.

Try to find a group in which there are members that are different from you.

While there is value in finding a group in which the members have much in common, there is also great value in finding a group in which there is diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. I once had a pastor say, “The more people you know, and the greater diversity of the people you know, the more of God you know.” After all, Scripture tells us that we have all “been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9). When we stick to our in-group, or the people most similar to us, we are limited by how much we can truly know about God. We may learn some about who He is, but we will never get the full picture. When we diversify the people we interact with, we are able to learn more about who God is and about many of His characteristics that we may not see otherwise. Quite frankly, diversity is something that I believe Christian communities have been greatly lacking for as long as I can think of. So, it is incredibly important to make space for those who may have traditionally been excluded from religious circles and to find groups in which this diversity is celebrated. 

Find a group that is passionate about service to those in need.

It is very obvious that our world is plagued by injustices and disparities of all kinds. In recent years, we have seen increasing racial injustice, increasing wealth gaps, decreasing access to basic needs such as healthcare and various crimes against humanity around the world, to name a few. One interesting thing noted time and time again in Scripture is that during His time on Earth, Jesus focused the vast majority of his efforts on helping the needy, poor and oppressed, and healing those who had been deemed outcasts by society. He even tells his disciples, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 4:12-13). Time and time again, as Christians, we are called to follow the teachings of Jesus. One of the best ways we can carry out our faith is through service to others. So, try to find a group that is committed to solving injustices seen throughout campus and within the community.

Find a group where you feel the most loved.

One of the best pieces of advice I received about navigating college ministries was from my youth pastor, who told me to consider the question, “Where do you feel the most loved?” There is no perfect way to get involved with a college ministry, but if you let yourself be guided to wherever you feel the most loved, you will not be making the wrong decision. After all, Scripture tells us that, “God is love.” It continues, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). Find a place where you can feel love radiating from the members, and that is where you will find God as well. I have mentioned it before, and I feel that it is worth mentioning again: while my experiences relate to my faith as a Christian, one thing that I have found every religion to have in common is the principle of love. If you are pursuing your faith in college, you should aim to find a place in which you feel the most loved. Everyone deserves to feel welcomed and accepted with open arms exactly how they are.

While navigating your faith away from home can be challenging, it is entirely doable, and it is so rewarding. College is a time full of growth, new experiences and learning, and there is no reason that these principles can’t apply to your faith as well. The toughest part is making that leap and putting yourself out there, but I promise, once you find a place in which you feel welcomed, accepted and ultimately, loved, you won’t regret it.

Hi everyone! My name is Abby, and I am currently a third year in UMKC's six year B.A./M.D. program. My hobbies include running, exploring coffee shops in the Kansas City area, and playing the piano.
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