Here you are, friend. You’re officially a “young adult.” Look at you! You graduated high school, and that seems like the greatest achievement right now. Congratulations! You had an awesome summer of freedom, you attended new student orientation, you have the greatest roommate and no classes before 10 AM, so you’re ready to take on college. You feel unstoppable, like the world is at your fingertips. And in many ways, that is true. You will love college. You will find your people and your major, your favorite spots in the library, the greatest intramurals. You will figure out which days the caf is soooo not worth it, and which restaurants in the student center will make you sick every time. (Why did Chinese food on a college campus seem like a good idea?) But there’s something I need you to remember. This is, and I’m risking a cliche here, the beginning of the rest of your life. Start it with Christ as the foundation, or it will crumble. I’ve got a few things to say, and I’d love for you to listen. Because here is a letter, from my heart to yours: To The Christian On Their First Day Of College.
College comes with a lot of freedom. You’re out of your parents’ house, you’re in charge of feeding yourself and getting where you need to be on time, and you suddenly have complete freedom to choose whatever you want! Sure, in high school, you had some freedom, but if dad wanted you to play football, you played football. If mom insisted on choir, choir it was. You were limited in your ability to choose for yourself, but not anymore! You can do whatever you want!
Let me be the words of wisdom here that your parents tried to be, but you didn’t listen because you think they’re lame. You have the ability and the right to choose what you want to do. You can stay up all night, eat pizza rolls for three weeks straight, and skip class. Or you can go to class, eat food that actually provides nutrition, and go to sleep at a decent hour. You get to choose. Yes, YOU. Not your roommate, not your RA, not the classmates who decided a 3 AM study session would be a good idea (it’s not). Make wise choices. College sets the tone for the rest of your life. Choose well.
That was a bonus piece of advice, just because I think you need to hear it again. Now, here’s what I actually want to say to you.
You need to find other Christians. I know that you’re 18 and you think you’ve got a firm grip on Christianity and God and how much He loves you. But as grounded as you may be, you will not make it without community. Trust me, I tried. It doesn’t work.
The great thing about college is that you get to choose a community that you love! On every college campus, there are multiple Christian organizations. There are almost always Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, and nondenominational student ministries, and on larger campuses, there’s probably more than one of each. Try them out and see where you feel at home. Find the group that has the same beliefs as you. Look for people that will welcome you with open arms. Attend their services and see what worship and Biblical teaching looks like for them. Find the one that matches your faith and commit your time to it.
You also need to find a church. Sure, a Tuesday night service at a student ministry is great, but you need weekly fellowship with believers of all ages. Many of you have this at home, so you think that of course you will continue it in college. But y’all, it’s hard. It’s hard to get up on Sunday mornings and get to church. Hear me loud and clear here: do not skip church. Your first Sunday in college, try out a church. If you don’t like it, pick a different one and try it the next week. Make it a habit from the very beginning. Many churches will have young adult ministries, as well, so look into those and see if any of them fit what you’re looking for.
The great thing about student and young adult ministries is that they have weekly services, but that is only part of what they do during the week! They do so much more! They have free lunches, they have dances, they have bowling nights, they have coffee, they have video game competitions, they have volleyball, they have pretty much any social event you can think of! Here are some of the awesome experiences that I had with my student ministry in college!
We went to football games and retreats, held Valentine’s banquets and game nights, and participated in campus activities, all as a family of believers. Then, we’d come together every Monday night to worship and hear a message. Throughout the week, there were Bible studies and discipleship programs, as well. It brought everyone together and formed an awesome community.
My brother Andrew (playing the ukulele in the picture above) was already involved in this student ministry when I got to college. I joined him and began attending from the very beginning of college. Though I didn’t stay involved for all four years of college, it was a great time to grow in the Word along with others who believed the same. Plus, some of my greatest and most fun college memories happened with these people!
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As I close out this letter, let me just encourage you. You’re going to do great in college. Even if, in four years, you aren’t a teacher or on your way to vet school, you will find what you love and pursue it. It will be wonderful, as long as Christ is in it. So as you move to campus and start the adventure of your life, put God first. Place His Word above all else in your life, and find people who will do the same. They will be your life support in the dark days, and you will be their theirs. Find your tribe, and pursue Christ together. There is no greater purpose in life.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
(Oh, and call your mother. She birthed you and raised you and expects to hear from you at least weekly, not just when you need money.)