10 things for making sense of college life

1. Participate in a church

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer (Acts 2:42 NLT).

Notice I don’t say “go to church.” In fact, there’s few better ways to short-circuit your spiritual health than once a week “going to church”, sitting in a back pew/chair, singing along with the songs, listening to the sermon and then going home.

Church is something you ARE and DO. So plug in. Plant yourself. Use this verse in Acts as a guideline. Just because the word “church” is on the sign or the website, doesn’t mean they act like it.

Take a semester and explore what churches are in your town. Sample as many as you can. Especially the ones completely different from what you’re used to. See what fits. See what doesn’t fit. But by spring semester, find a place you can call home, and plant yourself there. Commit to a Christian family.

2. Go to class

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

College is expensive. Get your money’s worth. Knowledge is power. Don’t be the girl or guy who stays up all night playing World of Warcraft and flunks out first semester. You will meet these people. Don’t be one of these people.

3. Call your mom

Each of you must show great respect for your mother and father (Leviticus 19:3)

It’s one of the 10 Commandments, and it gets talked about here in a chapter all about holiness. Keep reading Leviticus 19 and you find love your neighbor. Rightly relating to your parents is somehow spiritual.

The fact is, in all likelihood, your parents are on your team. They want to see you succeed and become everything God has made you to be. And they worry. So be sure to check-in from time to time just let them know how you’re doing.

Same is true if you’ve got younger siblings. Take time to give them a call, too. Because they probably miss having you around.

4. Set goals

A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace (Proverbs 10:5).

It’s said that you become what you think about. So take time to think about what you want to become, and write it down. Make it concrete. Make it reasonable. Make it challenging. You want to grow. Spiritually, mentally, socially, etc.

So stretch yourself. Read a chapter of the Bible 4 times a week. Run a 5K. Go without soda for a month. Get a 3.0 GPA. Whatever.

5. Get found by a mentor

So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. (1 Kings 19:19).

Dumbledore. Mr. Miyagi. Morpheus. Obi-Wan Kenobi. There’s a reason all the great stories have this archetypal wise guide figure. It’s a lot like the human experience.

The Bible is full of such pairs of teacher-student. Moses and Joshua. Elijah and Elisha. Paul and Timothy. Jesus and his disciples. Find an adult you trust–a professor, campus minister, advisor, youth volunteer–and listen to them. Pelt them with a hundred stupid questions about how they survived college or how their faith survived college.

6. Reject debt

Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).

What you do with money is spiritual. Life after college is full of amazing opportunities you’ll never see if you graduate with a mountain of student loans and credit card debts. Learn the power of compound interest. It is your best friend that can make you rich, or your worst enemy that will cripple you for life.

Find all the scholarships you can. If you have a credit card, pay it off immediately and close the account. If you don’t have a credit card, awesome. Don’t get one. You don’t need one. Not even to build a credit history.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Univeristy and Crown Financial Ministries are two courses that many area churches offer. Take one. In fact, First United is offering FPU this fall.

Find and watch the documentary Maxed Out. It’s about the dangers of the American consumer debt culture we live in.

7. Manage your time.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Time is finite. You can’t do everything. Take 15 minutes and write down your “big rocks,” those non-negotiable things you absolutely have to do, and prioritize from there. It may be the hardest lesson to learn, but you simply can’t say “yes” to everything.

Write everything down. Your class schedule. Orientation. Club meetings. Study groups. Band practice. Bible study. You’ll lose track real fast of everything begging for your attention.

Go out and buy a daytime planner. Or use one of a dozen apps for a smartphone, like TeuxDeux or Remember the Milk. Use iCal or Outlook on your laptop. Find something that works for you. Get organized. Run your schedule or your schedule will run you.

8. Eat well

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).

Interesting, isn’t it, that the first imperative from God to humanity and the first prohibition have to do with eating. What if eating has something to do with our spiritual life?

Your mom is not around anymore to make you eat your vegetables. But it won’t take you long to discover that a steady diet of pizza rolls and Red Bull at 11 pm really isn’t a good idea. Believe it or not, diet is directly connected to how you feel. If you’re tired all the time, instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or Mountain Dew, try consuming more water and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In some ways, your body is a big chemical machine and needs fuel. God made lots of stuff in nature to be its fuel. Unfortunately, the easiest and most convenient stuff to eat isn’t God-made, it’s man-made. You realistically can’t avoid all processed food on a college campus. Just keep everything in moderation.

9. Choose friends wisely

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

You don’t need me to tell you you need friends. But choose them wisely. Life is just a lot more fun when you share it. But you need friends that are more than just good for a laugh. You need friends who in the words of Thoreau, help you squeeze all the marrow out of life–who stretch you, grow you, and are willing to get in your face when you’re being stupid. It’s not a question of “if” but rather “when” you screw–because you will. You need you a team that will stand by you when it happens.

And if you choose your friends wisely, choose your friends of the opposite sex doubly, triply and quadruply wisely. They have the power to open new worlds to you, but also wound you for the rest of your life. Protect your heart.

Your sexuality is spiritual. Know your limits and your weaknesses. Sexuality is not an end, but an instrument that leads to intimacy. Sex without intimacy creates scars–emotional and psychological–that never go away.

10. What’s missing? What would you add?


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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