On my second day of orientation at Mississippi College, I walked into the cafeteria, and I noticed that the male student walking in front of me was emitting a squishing sound with each step he took.
Apparently others noticed it too, because I overheard the guy next to him ask “Man, what’s with your shoes?” The first student responded, “Well, they said we should wear shoes in the showers.” So he wore his Nikes… which, an hour later, were still waterlogged.
Everyone has moments from freshman year that they look back on and ask themselves “What was I thinking?” For example, the whole first month of college I picked up my lunch to go at 10:45 in the morning because I thought the cafeteria lines were ridiculous (what can I say, I was homeschooled).
Thankfully I got that one straightened out pretty early on, but I made plenty of other decisions that, in hindsight, do not really make sense. Ultimately, that is ok, because college is all about figuring these kinds of things out on your own.
However, in the midst of lots of mistakes, I made one choice that was really, really good. Actually, it was more like a series of seemingly small choices. I went to a church my third week of college. Then the next week, I went back to the same church. Now, six years after my first week at MC, I am still going to the same church. And I am incredibly grateful for God’s grace, prompting me to come back week after week, on test weeks, hard weeks, easy weeks– even weeks when there was something else going on.
And there is always something else going on. There are an incredible amount of things to do in college, both at MC and at various local churches. There are lots of people, everywhere you turn. But sometimes, even in the middle of tons of people and activities (even faith based activities), it is possible to miss out on deep, authentic community.
My husband and I have been talking about that idea of community a lot lately. And we have decided on one thing for sure: community takes commitment. We are a generation that is scared of commitment. We are the first generation that “talked” before we “dated” (because going to dinner would just be way too serious).
We do not want to make concrete plans to do something Friday because something else might come up. We live in a society of options and we have been coached to keep those options open so that we can do what is best for us.
Some people might argue that it is making us career ready. I would say that ultimately, it is making us selfish– and it is draining the church. The local church needs people who are committed. So many people I knew in college “church surfed”… going to whatever church had the best party, coolest worship, most young people in its small group.
Super bowl parties here, small group there, worship somewhere else all together. One set of churches freshman year, something entirely different sophomore year. Do not let that be your story. Yes, sometimes it takes time to choose a church. And there are valid reasons for switching churches.
But pick a church, as quickly as you can (in good conscience). And when you pick one, commit yourself there. Go as much as you can. Serve the church: watch married people’s kids, ask an older lady to teach you to cook, support whatever the church is doing to serve to community. Be someone that church leaders and members can count on to be there week in and week out.
And the funny thing is, digging in deep and making a church home does not just strengthen and uphold the local church. It will fortify you as well, time and time again. No matter what an awesome time you had at Welcome Week, know this: college friendships can change and shift at a moment’s notice.
Being a joyfully committed part of a multi generational, gospel focused, local expression of the body of Christ will add a kind of richness and stability to your college life that cannot be achieved any other way.
Besides, you are going to make mistakes in college. And when you do, you are going to need someone in your life to tell you to pitch the soggy Nikes and go buy a pair of flip-flops.
– Ruth Ann Moss, Contributing Writer, found family (aka her husband David) at Mississippi College. She now teaches for Jackson Public Schools through Teach for America. You can read her personal blog here: http://gatheringmoss.wordpress.com