Finding a home church away from home

Moving away from your family to college brings a variety of changes and new experiences for anyone. For many students at John Brown University, that transition also includes the challenge of finding a church to attend and call their own.

University chaplain Rod Reed said that the church is important because it is the collective body with which God has a special relationship.

“Christian organizations can do good work,” Reed said, “but the church is the center of God’s activity.”

He added that there are various aspects that the church offers, including teaching, worship, accountability and involvement in missions.

Reed said attending church is different from chapel in that the church service is not targeted specifically at students.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “It teaches us humbleness and service, and reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Junior Austin Harms said he did not really care what type of church he ended up at when he came to the University.

Towards the end of his freshman year, Harms visited Cross Pointe Community Church, a non-denominational church in Springdale, Ark. Harms said it is similar to his home church in Southlake, Texas.

Harms said he has always been heavily involved in the churches he has attended.

Harms added that University students could get burned out on chapel and other University events. By attending a church, they have the opportunity to meet community families.

He warned that students should not expect to find a church within two months. Harms said it is a process that takes time as students try to figure out what they want or believe in. He also encouraged students to try to spend more than one Sunday at each church they visit.

Harms concluded it was still a good idea to be settled in a church by the end of freshman year. Then students have three years to spend “life-on-life” with the people at their church.

Sophomore Brandon Blackman agrees, and said that being involved in a local church is important. He said he finds it selfish not to be engaged with a church, because it means a person is not willing to put God first.

Blackman has taken a class on theology of worship taught by Robbie Castleman, associate professor of biblical studies. She teaches that church is not about us, but rather about God, he said.

Blackman said he appreciates more traditional churches because they have deep content and help participants remember that they are part of a long story; they do not have to make up something new. However, he also said he enjoys the energy of more contemporary services, where people are eager to assist the community.

Blackman now regularly attends Community Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational church. He added that he occasionally goes to First Presbyterian Church on religious holidays.

Freshman Laura Roller said she has grown up attending Assembly of God churches of various sizes as her family has moved around. During her early teen years, her family attended a church in Kansas that she said still feels like her home church.

A couple of years before Roller graduated from high school, however, her family moved to Ohio. She did not feel that she belonged at the church her family now attends, so when she came to college she wanted to find something more similar to the church in Kansas.

Although she visited the First Assembly of God church in Siloam Springs, Roller said it did not feel like home. Toward the later part of last semester, she started visiting Fellowship Bible Church, a non-denominational church in Siloam Springs, which she now considers her “home base” church.

Roller said she also feels that it is crucial for college students to be part of a church.

“JBU can become myopic,” she said. “Being part of a church reminds us that there are other concerns than classes and financial aid. There are people dealing with arthritis or with having a baby. It takes the focus off of me and puts it back on God and other people.”