Going to college can sometimes be a difficult journey.
To help young people meet the challenges they'll face along the way, many Lawrence congregations try to provide a spiritual home away from home for Kansas University students.
Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive, is one such faith community that offers a ministry geared toward KU students.
"They're at a place in their lives where they're making a lot of decisions about their future. It's a time when they need support and acceptance, and they're looking for wisdom. We believe God is the greatest source of wisdom," said the Rev. Mark Knight, director of Christ Community's outreach to KU.
"I think they're also looking for a community where they can be accepted and have those important friendships. That's what we seek to build here."
On any given Sunday during the academic year, Knight estimates, more than 130 KU students attend Christ Community's worship services.
They're also active in different ministries throughout the congregation.
"Pretty much everything we do here, we try to involve college students. I believe it will benefit them, and it certainly benefits us," Knight said.
The directors of both Campus Crusade and Campus Christians two of the larger student ministries at KU attend church at Christ Community.
The congregation also attracts members of the Navigators, another Christian student ministry at the university.
Christ Community tries to foster a good relationship between the church and various KU faith groups.
"We're supportive of any ministry that seeks to share the love of Christ. We want to complement their ministries by providing a church home to their directors and members while they're here (in Lawrence)," Knight said.
"We support them and their ministries in prayer, friendship and financially."
Another congregation that strives to reach out to KU is Immanuel Lutheran Church & University Student Center, 2104 W. 15th St.
KU students of all faith backgrounds are welcome to participate in activities and worship at the church.
Immanuel Lutheran has attracted international students from Chad, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, according to the Rev. Alan Estby, the church's associate pastor and campus minister.
"We welcome all KU students. We're here to provide them with a connection to the body of Christ and to give them spiritual growth during their college years," he said.
"We're here to help them with whatever they might need during their KU experience."
The church's ministry to college students dates to 1923. The University Student Center used to be the church's parish house.
Every Thursday evening, the student center hosts a supper, followed by a devotional activity, singing and fellowship.
The center also sponsors small-group Bible studies and encourages students to participate in alternative spring breaks and mission trips.
Through Immanuel Lutheran, KU students have the opportunity to attend annual Missouri Synod gatherings of college students from Kansas and the region.
Immanuel Lutheran is planning to host a welcome barbecue for KU students at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24 on the church's front lawn.
"It's open to anyone. We'll have hamburgers and hot dogs and all the stuff that goes with it," Estby said.
Explore their faith
First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive, also makes the effort to connect with KU students throughout the year.
The church will host a big welcome-back-to-school luncheon for students after the second worship service on Sunday, Sept. 8. It will start about 12:30 p.m.
First Baptist's college ministry offers a Bible study for students at 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays. It typically attracts 13 or 14 people.
Last year, First Baptist helped organize a mission trip to Muskogee, Okla., where college students did repair work at a children's home.
Students from KU and Kansas State University went on the trip, which was sponsored by American Baptist Ministries.
Reaching out to KU is an important part of First Baptist's mission to the community, according to the Rev. Steve Kawiecki, who runs the church's student ministries.
"A lot of times, kids will go from high school to college, and that's their time to explore. We want to give them an opportunity to do that," Kawiecki said.
"College is a great time to explore your faith, to make a faith your own. You don't have your parents standing over you, saying, 'You must go to church.'"