The Rev. Dennis Carnahan, pastor, BridgePointe Community Church, 601 W. 29th St. Terrace:
The good thing about a large college town is the diversity of religious options for students. Many mainline churches try to plant or support churches that are focused on reaching college students for Christ. There are many benefits for both the church and the students.
The church benefits from the vitality and exuberance of young people. We often forget that Jesus chose teenagers as his disciples and forever changed the world. Young people bring an energy that is contagious. College students also offer areas of expertise that many churches desperately need. The complex nature of modern worship services creates opportunities for college students to experience and experiment with the many technical aspects of a worship service.
The student benefits from an extended family. The new-found freedom associated with being a college student can be overwhelming, and it helps to have someone to talk to. Many churches staff or have available a college-age pastor who is able to help students navigate some of life’s difficult decisions. And another benefit is the occasional “home-cooked” meal many churches offer and many students would enjoy immensely!
Students can use church Web sites to narrow their search, but there is no substitute for a site visit to see firsthand what a church is like and to see if it is a good fit. There are many wonderful churches as well as campus ministries to satisfy the needs of the students, but there is more to church than getting your needs met. Finding a place where you believe in the vision and can plug in to use your gifts will be rewarding and satisfying.
— Send e-mail to Dennis Carnahan at email@example.com.
The Rev. Ira DeSpain, pastor at Baker University:
I have three suggestions, depending on your goals and religious needs and a caution:
• If you wish to find a religious tradition at college that is the same or similar to the religious tradition of your family’s, there is virtually every kind of Christian church in Douglas County. There also is a Jewish community center and an Islamic center. Each of those religious sites would be glad to assist you in continuing the religious pilgrimage.
• If you wish to explore a variety of religious expressions and practices, college is a wonderful time to do that. Catholics, Baptists and Mennonites worship the same God but do so in very different ways. As you prepare to live in a religiously diverse world, it would be helpful for you to learn something about many religious groups. Find a list of churches, synagogues and mosques, go in groups and “worship shop.” It’s easier to do that while in college than later.
• Many college students choose to develop their spirituality further by being involved in a campus ministry program. These are sponsored by denominations or religious traditions. There also are nondenominational campus ministries that also serve as a religious “home away from home.” Because Baker University is church-related, the school sponsors a weekly chapel service where attendance is voluntary. Some students choose this as their “church” during their college years. At KU, search the KU Religious Advisors at www.ku.edu/~kura. There are 23 religious groups listed there.
Now the caution: Cults are present in our world. They often prey on the weak, lonely or unsure. Stay away from them. They are not interested in your spiritual development. There are two quick questions to ask: Is leaving a group as easy as joining? Can you see a copy of the group’s budget? If the answer to either question is “no,” then be suspicious.
— Send e-mail to Ira DeSpain at firstname.lastname@example.org.