The Search for a College Church
Reported by Jen Wright
Finding a new church to attend once you get to college isn’t easy.
I thought it would be, with Newberg being such a small college town and George Fox University (GFU) being a religious school, but it proved to be the opposite.
I might be picky or I might just be looking in the wrong places. I joined GFU in Fall 2018, and I spent my entire first semester visiting churches in and around Newberg, looking for one to attend regularly.
I grew up attending a non-denominational church every Sunday, and I have come to expect a certain kind of church experience. I don’t ask for much, honestly: worship that makes me feel like I’m included and not part of a concert audience, and a thoughtful, scriptural message.
GFU offers many opportunities during the week to attend religious gatherings to fulfil chapel requirements; I have sat in on Tuesday chapel every week. But I felt something missing, and I started looking for a service to attend every Sunday.
The first church I visited, the pastor spent most of the sermon talking about sports. At the second church, the music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself singing. And all the others I visited were similarly unsatisfactory.
Some students start church shopping hoping to find something similar to their home church, something that feels like home. Others want to find something completely different, something that will fit them better. And some are looking to simply start attending church, either for the first time, or to get back into a regular routine.
Whatever the reason, it can be stressful to be in a different place, trying to find a center of worship. One thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t work to try and compare the churches I visit to my home church. I always end up disappointed and discouraged.
College is all about building a new community to learn and grow in. Finding new friends and a new church family is crucial to the spiritual maintenance of a new student, especially one that grew up with a consistent supportive community.
GFU has a directory of churches in the area on the school website, and there are even shuttles on Sunday mornings from the university to the Timberline Baptist, C3 Newberg, and Red Hills Churches. This makes it easy to get there, but the rest is up to you.
I have found that it helps to find people to go with, and that can make me feel more connected and secure. I also find a regular attendee and ask them if that is their regular pastor and worship team. I pick up brochures and look at the various programs they offer.
All these things can help you ease into a new church community and build connections that will last. I’m still looking for a church community, but I’ve found someone to explore with and right now, that is enough for me.