Dos and Don’ts of Navigating College as a Lutheran

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By Bethany Kilcrease

So, perhaps you’re a high school senior just packing bags and preparing to head off to college.  Or, perhaps you’re a parent about to send off your child.  Or, maybe you’re neither and just have some time to kill and happened to stumbled across this awesome website.  In any case, I am about to offer you the first item on my off-the-top-of-my-head list of how to survive those tumultuous college years while remaining in the faith.  I should note that all the following dos and don’ts are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect the views of every contributor on this site.  I should also note that I write as 1) someone who actually went to college many moons ago and did eventually graduate, 2) someone who then went through graduate school while working as a teaching assistant, and 3) someone who now works at a college as a professor.   Last caveat: why does anyone – college student or not – come to and remain in the faith?  It’s a miracle wrought by God the Holy Spirit!  While we can shipwreck our faith, only the Holy Spirit can establish it and bring it to completion.

Now the good stuff for undergrads and others.  Do go to Divine Service every Sunday.  Every Sunday.  Every Sunday.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  Don’t worship at Bedside Baptist.  Ideally, you should pick a college with a good congregation in mind to attend during the academic year.  If you are at a large public university in the upper Midwest or at one of the Concordias, then you may be able to find a congregation on campus at a chapel.  But, odds are, you will be attending a college where this is not an option.  That means you will actually have to leave campus to attend the Divine Service.  Unfortunately, in my experience, the vast majority of undergraduate students will not leave campus to attend church.  It’s like there’s an invisible electric fence around the campus and students are wearing those fancy zapper dog collars.  Students, break free from the gravitational force exerted by the quad and get to that church!  

If you are a parent or member of a congregation located near a college, your best chance of getting students to leave campus is to offer rides of some kind that will pick students up at their dorms and drop them off there.  Even students with cars are unlikely to leave campus, but if they don’t have one, then the daunting prospect of walking, biking, or taking public transportation will further deter them.  Yes, a tiny minority of students will leave campus and diligently make the trek to church every Sunday, and possibly even for Advent and Lententide mid-week services.  But the vast majority will not, even if they see themselves as committed LCMS Lutherans.  The more committed ones who will not go off campus will find a Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant worship service somewhere on campus and make do with that.  However, this is not a good long term substitute, because the services will likely be Gospel-deficient and the Lord’s Supper will be unavailable.  There is simply no substitute for getting to a confessional Lutheran church for the Divine Service every Sunday and on other feast days.  This is why the sale and destruction of University Lutheran Chapel at the University of Minnesota was so utterly tragic.  It sat right next to campus!  Meaning students didn’t really have to leave campus to get there.  The logic of this decision still baffles the mind.  (Full disclosure: I have zero relation to University Lutheran Chapel).  But, I digress.

The bottom line for college students: DO attend the Divine Service every Sunday.  You need Jesus.  DON’T succumb to inertia and sleep in on Sundays.  If necessary, and it probably will be, DO go off campus to get to a solid Lutheran church.  If you don’t have a car, call the church and ask for help arranging a ride.  You can use that fancy computer phone you’re always tinkering with in my class to do this.  You could possibly also find a professor on campus to drive you.  More on finding these professors another time.  DON’T think that you can substitute attending just whatever Christian service is available on campus.  DO go to Divine Service every Sunday.  Every Sunday.  Every Sunday.  

In our possible, but at this point still hypothetical, next installment, we’ll discuss handling all those scary atheistic liberal college professors.  You know, my friends.

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Comments

Dos and Don’ts of Navigating College as a Lutheran — 2 Comments

  1. Agreed. I was giving a ride to an undergrad Lutheran for a while. After moving away, I learned that she started going to a non-denominational church with more convenient access. She had been embarrassed to reach out to other Lutherans in fear of imposing on them, and no one seemed to notice that she had stopped attending to reach out to her, further cementing her choice to go somewhere with a stronger / more visible community. Rides do matter. And talking to new attendees matters, too. I’m a Lutheran convert and the early years in the church were particularly lonely.

  2. If you have got a car, put a note on the bulletin board in your dorm [They still have bulletin boards?] and offer a ride to any other Lutheran there.

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