I didn't grow up in a very religious family, but by the time I turned 14, I had officially committed my life to Christ.That being said, I didn't find a church home until first semester of my senior year when my younger sister dragged me with her to a small church 30 minutes away from our house where one of her friends attended. After falling in love, committing myself to a church and developing a community with the youth group, I began to realize just how important those relationships were to my relationship with God.
When I started getting ready to move to college, one of my biggest concerns was keeping up my relationship with Christ amidst all the temptation and distractions that college has to offer. I heard a lot of stories of people who fell out of love with their faith in their first year of college because the freedom of it all was so intoxicating. No parents to force you to go to church, or anyone breathing down your back about doing devotionals everyday. I didn't want that to be me.
Church hopping was a scary prospect, especially in a whole new city where I didn't know anyone. But regardless, I was prepared to go alone until I found somewhere that spoke to me. Luckily, just a few days before my first church attendance, I ran across a friend that was also wanting to go on a church-hopping adventure. Having someone to brave the storm with was an incredible blessing. Together we found a church that just so happened to be #2 on the list of perspectives.
Soon we had accumulated a group of 5 friends that all attended the same church and we began to be a support group for each other. Reminding each other to do devotionals, sending each other scripture when it had been a hard week, reviewing and taking notes of church sermons for each other, and simply being a motivation and inspiration to each other in our faith. These relationships have come to be some of the most important to me in college because they help keep me accountable for my actions, and they motivate me to dig deeper in my relationship with Christ.
I firmly believe that this type of community is so important for any student motivated to stay firm in their faith in college, and these relationships can do more for you than you will ever truly know.
Aside from having a strong support system in church, because church isn't for everyone, here are 5 things that have helped me maintain a close relationship with God in college:
1. Set aside time to do a devotional or have a quiet time everyday and have an accountability partner.
We all know that this can be a tricky one and some nights you're just too exhausted to even think about keeping your eyes open for one more second, but one thing I've noticed about myself is in those periods that I am really consistent about spending one-on-one time with God (no matter how exhausted I may be) there is a distinctive difference in the way I live my life and the joy I bring to others.
2. Online Sermons. Nuff said.
You can find some seriously amazing online sermons out there that will inspire you. If you're having a rough week and need a little more Jesus in your life because it's not yet Sunday, look for a good online sermon to help you get through the week.
3. Live Streams
Most churches now do live streams of all of their sermons every Sunday so if for some reason you can't make it physically, or you're on the road, there is no reason you can't listen to the sermon in your car or while you study for that big exam!
4. TALK. TO. PEOPLE.
Get together with your friends that go to church with you, go to a different church, live in a different state, literally anyone that shares your faith and simply talk to them. Compare sermon notes, ask about what type of devotionals they do, have meaningful conversations and talk to them about your struggles or your excitements with your faith and in life.
5. Surround yourself with a faithful community.
I am an intern for an inter-religious group called Beliefs and Values so I know all about, and am a HUGE proponent of having friends of other faiths, but I also believe it is important to surround yourself with people who share your beliefs and can push you to grow in it.