Before I moved from my home on the other side of the state to Cornerstone University, I used to have weekly meetings with my pastor.
In these meetings, my pastor attempted to teach me and the other students leaving for college all of the things he felt would be important to us in the “adult world.” Over the course of these meetings, I began to notice one message that was present in every lesson he gave: find a church and get plugged in.
After arriving at college and getting all settled in, the first Sunday came before I knew it and I had no idea where I was going to go to church. To help you avoid this situation, I’d like to give you some tips on how to get plugged into local churches in the Grand Rapids area!
ATTEND CHURCH FAIRS
To be honest, when I first heard of the idea of a church fair, I thought it was a bit silly. “How am I supposed to figure out if a church is right for me without attending a service?” I thought.
However, I was focusing a bit too much on the wrong idea. I thought that going to a church fair, where I could check out all sorts of churches and speak to the representatives, would be the defining factor in deciding what church I would end up attending.
Turns out the church fair is just step one on your journey to getting plugged into a church. It’s the information gathering stage where you get to walk around and speak with pastors from different churches and grab all the pamphlets.
It’s much easier to go around to tables at a church fair than it is to drive around Grand Rapids taking notes of all of the churches you may be interested in and try to judge if you’ll like the services based on the location or the architecture.
Put in the time at a church fair and you’ll have tons of choices and information to proceed with.
ASK FRIENDS TO TAG ALONG
After you’ve got an idea of the churches you may be interested in attending, you come to the next hurdle: you don’t want to go alone. In this case, asking a friend is usually the way to go.
Asking a friend to come with you can really take the stress out of a trip to a new place with new people. I know from experience that going to a church service alone can feel like a gargantuan task to an awkward college student.
The added plus of going with someone else is that they were probably looking for someone to do the exact same thing. During freshman year, all of the students that didn’t grow up around the Grand Rapids area are looking for somewhere new to attend church. Maybe even think of asking someone you don’t know as well yet. The church is for God to bring people together, after all.
GET OUT OF BED
This is easily the hardest thing for me to do on a Sunday morning. It’s not like I don’t enjoy church and getting to go hear God’s message. I just don’t think I understand why someone people think that the Word sounds better at 8:30 a.m. than at noon.
That being said, the habit of skipping church to get more sleep is an easy pitfall to trip into, trust me. I’m not going to assume that I can trust you (or myself) to go to bed at a respectable hour on a Saturday (especially with all of the exciting things going on campus), so I would suggest that you look for something specific when looking for a church: later service or closer proximity.
A later service ensures that you still make it out to be a part of the body of God instead of watching that Matt Chandler service on YouTube again (which doesn’t meet the urgency God calls us to in Hebrews 10:24-25 to meet together in person). Closer proximity means that maybe you can sleep in a bit more to make sure you make it to that early service. However, don’t use an early service as an excuse not to go. The church is an important part of growing in Christ, so make sure to feed your spiritual side and allow God to use you in someone’s life every Sunday.
BE PICKY … BUT NOT TOO PICKY
Now that you’ve finally gotten yourself out of bed and checked out a few churches, it may be time to make a decision on which one you want to get involved with. This may be a problem that only I have experienced when it comes to churches, but I have had an issue in the past with actually choosing a church and sticking to it.
I convince myself that there’s a problem with just about any church I’ve been to and that’s why I can’t stay there. For instance, maybe one day I went into my church and realized that I wasn’t as big of a fan of the choir, even though I get a lot out of the preaching.
In my experience, the unfortunate thing about American Churchgoers is that they treat the idea of choosing a church like they’re buying a new car.
They like to try lots of different models out and then make small payments when they can to afford it. Allow me to propose a different outlook on the church-choosing experience.
Instead of going to church and wondering how much you can get out of it, figure out how much you have to give. There is no perfect church on Earth, and if you look for a reason not to get involved it’s very likely that you’ll come up with one.
Pray about it and choose the one you feel you could be the best fit in. Speak to a pastor about getting involved and then you’re on your way!
Also, if you’d like to get a head start on looking for churches in the Grand Rapids area, why not check one out on a visit to Cornerstone?