“College is going to be the best four (or maybe five) years of your life!” How many times have you heard those words? Coming into college, the bar is normally set pretty high. However, due to the restrictions of COVID-19, you may be spending your freshman year in your dorm when not in class. Or maybe you’re a junior wondering where all your friends have gone now that events are cancelled and clubs cannot gather. Your surroundings leave you thinking, “how can college be so great if I don’t have a legit community?” I want to share with you some things I learned during my time at The University of Georgia.
Look in the right place.
A good place to start when looking for friends in college is deciding where to look. Personally, I recommend starting with a local church college ministry or a campus ministry at your school. This is not to say that these are the only places where you can find community, but the person leading you and your peers does make a difference. These environments tend to be extremely welcoming and are sure to be a positive influence for the duration of your time at college.
Take the first step.
The first interaction with someone you meet can be awkward. If we were honest with ourselves, I’m sure we can all think about an interaction we have had with someone that just didn’t go right. However shy you are, not many people are going to turn you away if you are looking for friendships in the right place. I remember my freshman year, I met my now best friend in the ice cream line at our dining hall. If I had not turned around to tell him about my love for Moose Tracks ice cream, who knows what would have happened. Since I was able to take the first step, I am now getting ready to serve as the best man in his wedding.
Plant your feet.
Once you find that place, jump in with both feet. Remember there is never going to be a perfect place; every ministry is going to have some things about it you don’t like. But you can make sure you fit well with the larger and important factors. Planting your feet means finding any and all ways to get involved. If they are going on a retreat, sign up. If they are going on a mission trip, go. If they are having a tailgate for the football game, be there. The best way to find community is to push past the awkward phase and seek out those shared experiences. For me, this was a 300 mile bike ride with an on-campus ministry. I am not an avid bike rider, however I am grateful that I was able to jump on the opportunity to do something outside my comfort zone. The more you get involved, the more opportunities will open up for you within that organization to serve and lead. These opportunities will allow you to further plant your feet within that organization.
If this sounds like a lot, it’s probably because it can be. College is likely the very first time you are faced with this much responsibility and sometimes it is hard to get everything done. Unlike some other things, community is not something that can be pushed off until the night before the exam. There is no one who can send you the Zoom link that will connect you to your lifelong best friends. Friendships require intentionality. Create breathing room in your schedule for fun things to do with friends. If time is an issue, find a way to include people you are getting to know into the things you are already doing. For example, you are going to eat every day, so multitask by scheduling a time to eat with a new friend. Some of my most filling times have been getting to know someone over a meal.
Discipleship is key.
Truth is, community was a gift that was given to us by God. As Kenny said in last week’s video about finding a church, God gave Adam Eve so he could have companionship in the Garden. We also hear about this truth in Hebrews 10:24, 25 when the writer compares believers to different parts of the body. We all have different functions, but we all must come together as one body of Christ. As it relates to finding friends, we can see this practically playing out in the importance of small group bible study. Walking through scripture as a group will not only push you in your walk but it will also strengthen the bond you have with those walking with you. These impacts are eternal.
Looking back, all 5 of my roommates after my freshman year were in my freshman small group from a campus ministry we were all a part of. And over the years we lived together we didn’t have a single major argument. Why was this? Because we found our community in the right place, pushed past the awkward stage, got involved in ministries we were passionate about, scheduled intentional time and kept pushing each other closer to Christ. Anytime something minor came up I was able to look at one of these things and pick out which factor needed more attention. Overall, we saw ourselves as brothers in Christ first and that made all the difference.
These 5 keys are a great place to start when it comes to finding a community. But what happens when you leave college for the summer and everyone goes their separate ways? We know that once you find a community at your college, those people can be really hard to leave. What greater thing to fulfill what we have talked about than spending the summer working camp. Not only is it the shared experience of your dreams, but every staffer we hire has been hired because of various remarkable traits they can bring to a team. Your team will schedule time to invest in your spiritual walk and time for you to do things that will help you bond. All summer staff are trained on how to be a Godly teammate and friend so the relationships formed for the summer will last a lifetime and have eternal impact. These lessons are not only good for the wellbeing of your team, but they will be brought home with you as you return to your college town and pick back up with friends from school.
– Nate Thomas, Development Intern
Ready to apply to be a summer staffer at Connect Camps?