Covenant students hear quite frequently that they ought to be involved in the local church—just sit through any Community Development or Missions class and it’s sure to come up. Our outreach work ought to begin from the local church as well, as it would be especially difficult to do development work in partnership with a church if one has little familiarity with church involvement in general. But what does it mean to get involved? How is it achieved?
Sunday services are an important and even vital aspect of spiritual growth. But we cannot let that be enough. At Rock Creek Fellowship, you will often hear Pastor Eric Youngblood state that one must loiter if they wish to be part of the one-anothering that happens there. A way to start stepping into greater involvement may be by coming a few minutes early and staying for a while after the benediction. I know this is tough. My introverted side groans each Sunday when we get to the “Meet and Greet.” But, just like eating veggies, I know that it is an important part of my growth (still, I’d rather eat brussels sprouts).
In addition to Sunday loitering, there are countless opportunities for college students to be involved and build community with their church members. So many opportunities, in fact, that it can become wildly overwhelming. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the right fit is not always as difficult to find as one may think. When we come to prayer with a willing heart, the Spirit will move and guide our hearts, passions, and gifts to show us where we belong.
When that calling isn’t obvious, you may have to try a few different places before you find a way to get plugged in. Serving, especially in the children or youth ministries, is often the first go to for students. Working in ministries of the church gives the student an opportunity to pour out and love others, and—when they come with an open heart—the students can grow and learn from those they are serving. These ministries can also give the student opportunity to get to know those they are serving with.
Unfortunately, these are not one-size-fits-all jobs. I have served alongside many students and adults who tried their best but were just not cut out for the work. When people serve in positions without the needed gifts, they can cause more harm than help and exhaust themselves rather than being uplifted.
Another easy way to get involved in the church is to join a community group. Multigenerational small groups pour out too many blessings to count. They allow us to get to know the whole body, not just the 18-25 year old’s. Spending time with church members of differing generations allows for an expanded worldview and wisdom far beyond one’s years.
Smaller groups can be a place of hope for the introverts everywhere. They allow members of a large body to know and be known by others in a way that seems more manageable than the overwhelming “Meet and Greet” time we all hate. The smaller groups allow time to share life regularly and for accountability. There have been several times in my life when I was pursuing an activity approved by many friends from school that older, trusted friends from a small group at church advised against. Their life experience and wisdom in years showed them a larger picture than I or my peers could ever see.
Along with verbal advice, these groups also allow students to witness other believers living lives as those set apart for the gospel. Just being around other individuals, couples, and families students can observe many lessons for life. There is often room for asking questions and partaking in discussions students would not be able to have with only peers. There’s something pretty special about asking a couple that has been married over a decade for relationship advice, which just isn’t there with those who have much less experience.
I’ve also seen many students thrive in one-on-one mentorships with an older couple or single person. Many church members would be thrilled if a college student approached them and requested a coffee date or offered to come help a mom fold laundry while they talked.
As previously stated, there are many great opportunities to be involved in a local church and get to know its members, and the ones I’ve mentioned are just touching the surface. I would encourage you to start with one or two ways and wait as you reap the benefits. There are few things more frustrating than attending the same church for months and still feeling as though you don't know anyone. When we decide to be brave and step out of our comfort zone, amazing relationships can be formed.