College is awesome right?
Whether you are currently in college or have graduated and moved on, you cannot deny that college presents you with a very unique experience of opportunities and relationships. It is not very difficult to meet new people and make friends in college. The culture of a university lends itself to community and enjoyment for the purpose of retention. And if you lived on campus, that experience is multiplied dramatically.
One thing that is good to keep in mind if you are still in college or have left school, is that the college experience is not exactly real life. Relationships and friendships are handed to you on a silver platter and you get enjoy the delicacies of that feast for 3-5 years. When you walk across that stage on graduation day, however, the rug of the artificial community created for you at your school will be pulled beneath your feet, and you will be left falling in mid-air.
Finding community after this point can be tough, but it is not impossible, and the benefits of being a part of community and having solid friendships far outweigh the necessary hard work that goes into making those relationships happen. From my own experience, God has really used my longing for intimacy and relationships post college by having a solid church community and christian friends who truly know me. These two things (church community and friends) can provide the foundation for lifelong fellowship and joy.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
If you are looking for community, plugging into a local church is a great easy first step after college. This is true if you are still in college right now. Getting started on plugging in deeply at a church now will make the transition out of college that much easier. When choosing a church, do so with prayer and wisdom. Ask yourself: Are they a biblically rooted community? Do the Christians here love each other well? Are there ways to grow and get involved? You will want to figure out what your own priorities are in terms of church community, but it is also good to remember that no church is perfect, and no church is likely to check all of your boxes.
On top of being a biblical commandment, plugging in with other Christians can provide us with our need for accountability, fellowship, and love. If you are a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family. Why not fully live out the extent of that adoption by choosing to be vulnerable with a group of your brothers and sisters by sharing life with them?
If you are still in college, it might be tempting to say to yourself, “Well I don’t really need to get involved at a church right now, because when I graduate from this school, I am going to move back home, out of town, etc…”. The question for you then is: Are you limiting your spiritual growth by choosing not to plug into a church? You may be surprised with the people you meet and get to learn from. Even if you don’t know how long you’ll be at a given place, it is best to plug into a local church as well as you can as time allows.
I personally contribute most of my spiritual growth in my 20’s to the people and programs of my local church. Along with growing spiritually, I have been blessed to have a group of people that I call my family outside of my real one. This process took time, however. You are likely not going to suddenly feel like you are known deeply by people at church after two weeks of attending. Here are some ideas to get there though: Volunteer on a Sunday morning, Instead of leaving church right when its over, stay for a little bit after it ends and strike up a conversation with someone, if your church has a form of small groups – join one. Ask people about themselves and be willing to share a little bit into your own life. In time, you will reap the benefits of knowing and being known in a church community.
A Friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
Life is hard. It’s easier with friends. Aristotle describes three different kinds of friends you will encounter in your life. Friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of virtue. None of these kinds of friendships are bad, but there is one that stands apart from the others.
Utility – Friendships of utility are based upon need. These are the friends who reach out to you (or you reach out to them) primarily because they need something from you (need help moving, need advice, need a ride to the airport, etc…). These relationships may feel more transactional.
Pleasure – Friendships of pleasure are based on common enjoyment of the other person or common enjoyment of a shared interest. These are the friends you want to spend time with because they add pleasure to your life. You may share a similar sense of humor or a hobby you like to do together, but these friendships do not go deep very often. They are conditional to the extent that one friend is enjoying something from the other person.
Virtue – Friendships of virtue are based primarily on love. You are more concerned with what you can give to that person rather than what you can get from them. These friendships are unconditional in that you will not leave that friend if they suddenly become boring, are going through a rough time, or seem aloof. On the flip side, these are the friends who will stick by you when you are going through the thick of things. All of the three types of friends are likely to exist in your life, but it is the friendships of virtue that will aid in satisfying our human longing for intimacy most potently.
I would not be the man I am today without my close friends. They keep me going when times get tough and they add real joy to my life. Some I made in college, but most I actually made in the years following. As a college student or college graduate, try to pursue gaining these three different kinds of friends. Friendships of virtue normally start off as friendships of utility or pleasure and then eventually, through time spent together, trust building, and vulnerability, more of God’s agape love will begin to show itself in the friendship. It is good to keep in mind that maintaining quality relationships of any kind whether it be in a church or not is going to be difficult. All people are broken (including you) and it takes effort to choose to keep loving people when they disappoint you or don’t live up to your expectations.
With both church community and making friends after college, imagine that the ball is in your court. You may have to take initiative now more than you had to while at school. Be willing to stick your neck out there and ask those friends/acquaintances to do something with you that you both would enjoy doing. Find out if your local church has a small group and join it! Finding a church you call home and building those lifelong friendships, will make your 20’s that much more rewarding. Relationships are risky, but once you put in the effort and stay faithful when it gets rough, overtime you will find that they are one of the best gifts God has for us this side of eternity.
Christian is a Residence Director at a Christian University in Southern California. He enjoys Camping, Hiking, National Parks. Fitness. Strategy Board Games. Reading (All kinds).