Back To School, Back To Church

Tips for finding and getting involved in a new church home

churchshopping-4Fall is often a time of new beginnings. You might be headed back to school or starting your freshman adventure. If you’ve recently graduated, you’re living on your own and settling in to a new work routine (or searching-for-work routine).

Our brains are in “back-to-school mode.” And generally, churches and campus ministries are following suit. They are rolling out the welcome mat and putting extra effort into inviting you back to church.

If you are new on campus or maybe looking for a church home after a move, take heart, you are not the only one on a spiritual quest. Here are a few suggestions to make your church search a little easier:

  • Look around your campus or neighborhood and see if there is a Catholic church or Newman Center (often the Catholic Center on campus at non-Catholic schools) nearby. Be on the lookout for special flyers or banners to welcome people like you who are new to the area or back from summer break.
  • Take your pursuit online and do an Internet or social media search for your campus ministry or local church. Dig around and see if you can find information about the church’s young adult ministry. Check the website to see what service-related opportunities are available. Some churches also have YouTube videos of their choirs that can help you figure out if the musical stylings speak to you.
  • Ask a roommate, friend, or co-worker for a church recommendation or details about the Catholic Center or Catholic Mass on campus.
  • Explore the student activities fair on your campus. The Newman Center or Catholic student group on campus will be there and have information about Mass times, retreats, and other opportunities to get involved.

Once you get to Mass, you might feel intimidated about the prospect of making new friends your first time there. Look for opportunities to meet people who are in the same boat as you:

  • Welcome gatherings for freshman are generally held the first few weeks of the school year and give new students a chance to interact and get plugged into a new community. BONUS: These events usually include FOOD.
  • The parish or Newman Center may also hold a Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is typically the Mass that opens up the school year.
  • Watch for parish announcements about a reception or welcome event after Mass specifically for young adults. This is a great way to meet other people at the church.
  • Take some initiative and invite a friend to Mass. You’ll feel less intimidated if you have someone by your side. They do not have to be Catholic either.

After spending some time at the church that you might call home for the next few years (or longer) think about getting more involved. This will help you feel connected to the community and make it easier to get to know people. Try one of these ideas:

  • Do you like to sing? Church choirs usually get back into the swing of things this time of year after a summer respite. Most do not require previous experience. A choir director might even be looking for a new musician to help out.
  • Look for opportunities to continue learning more about your faith. Small faith sharing groups or Bible/book studies sometimes begin at parishes or campus ministries in the fall. If you have a pioneering spirit, ask someone from the parish staff or the pastor if you might be able to start something for young adults if nothing is currently available.
  • Seek out social and volunteer opportunities either at the parish or the Newman Center to meet other new students or young adults. Watch for event announcements, sign-up for any listserv or e-mail list, or follow your parish on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss out.
  • Sign up for the fall retreat! Many campus ministries and even parishes host retreats, which are an excellent way to meet people. You’ll get a break from your regular routine and spend some quality quiet time with God.

Try not to get discouraged if at first finding, or fitting into, a new church is difficult. Starting something new always includes a period of adjustment. And if there are moments when you feel struggle or frustration, ask God for patience in settling into your new life and church home.