Is Attending Christian Stuff on Campus the Same as Church?

Is Attending Christian Stuff on Campus the Same as Church?

by Emily Brown

On Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m., you can be found (with bedhead and a huge cup of coffee) going through a Launch session with another new Christian and a mentor before class.

On Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., you and approximately 40 of your Christian friends take over a room in the student union for worship and a sermon-like talk.

For a busy college student like yourself, all that can be a hefty commitment. But is attending events like small-group Bible studies and large-group meetings the same thing as going to church? Is it enough? Is that even the right question to be asking?

To put it simply, no.

Here are four things InterVarsity staff (the very people who want you to attend chapter events at your school) would like you to consider about attending church.

1. Change Your Perspective

If you wonder whether church has anything more to offer you than what you get in your campus ministry, you'll have to start thinking about church attendance in a different way.

"The idea that church serves you is not what you should be focusing on," says Spencer Sanders, team leader at the University of Utah. “This attitude is the opposite of Christ's attitude—who did not come to be served but to serve."

Instead, ask "How will I experience God in the midst of serving others in the context of Christ's body, the Church?"

From this perspective, Spencer says, church is not something you participate in because it gives you something you want, but because you want to have the best possible relationship with God and give him every possible opportunity to speak into your life.

2. Join the Bigger Family

“One of the images we are given in the New Testament is becoming adopted members of God’s family,” says Sam Berger, on staff at Michigan State. Check out John 1:12, Romans 8:16, and Ephesians 1:5.

You were made to function in a church body with "family members" in various life stages. In fact, this family is essential to your growth as a Christian. You have gifts to bring to your local church community, and it has gifts for you—read 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 for more on spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.

One simple example is, as a younger Christian, you can receive advice from people who have been walking with Christ since before you were born. That kind of advice is priceless.

Sam says his church has been extremely helpful as he heads into marriage. He didn’t grow up in a Christian household, so he has received marriage and other advice from older Christians in his church.

3. Consider Life After College

Pat Barbour, on staff at San Diego State, says he encourages students to go to church during college so that they don't wane in their faith after graduation.

“If your InterVarsity chapter is all you have without church," Pat says, "then you miss the opportunity to gain lasting community in the wider body of Christ."

Doug Flaherty is on staff at UNC-Asheville and wants you to think even farther into the future:

"The next 60 years of your life won't be lived out in a campus Christian group. You need the entire body of Christ, which InterVarsity alone can't provide."

In fact, if you are involved with an InterVarsity chapter at your school, know that lifelong, active church membership is one of InterVarsity's core values.

4. Receive the Sacraments

Baptisms, weddings, and weekly won't find them in your small-group Bible study or weekly chapter meeting.

“InterVarsity does not perform the sacraments out of respect for what the church is doing,” says Sam.

For your baptism and/or wedding, a church is where it's at. And though you may only need those major rites of passage performed once, communion is a weekly reminder of Jesus’s sacrifice.

Want more on this topic? Read Why Should I Go to Church? and How to Choose a Church