Having a faith at University
For those of us that grew up in with a faith the phrase ‘uni can make or break your faith’ was probably thrown around a lot, it certainly was among me and my friends.
I’m James, I grew up in a Christian household, went to church and youth group all my life and eventually moved to Coventry to study at Nexus ICA, a Christian university. Since graduating from Nexus I have also studied Music Technology degree at Coventry University. Along the way my faith has always been a strong part of my life. Here are a few tips to continue growing in your faith whilst studying at uni.
1. Find the right community and get stuck in
Whether you’re a first year student moving to a new country, a new city or even a returning student moving back out of your parents homes, it can be easy to overlook the importance of finding a place of worship.
Finding a new place of worship can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many options available. Something you can do to make this transition easier is plan ahead. Do some research and choose a few communities whose core values and aims resonate with you and go to their services. Don’t be afraid to try a few different places out, ultimately you are looking for somewhere to belong and somewhere to grow whilst at uni and possibly beyond. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere where you don’t know people. From my experience one of the best ways to get to know people is to get involved and serve in the community. This could look like being a greeter, serving refreshments, being a part of kids or youth ministry teams, these opportunities will vary dependent on your particular faith but finding ways to be a contributor not a consumer in your community is great way to enrich and grow your faith.
2. Have accountability with close friends
I honestly believe that having other friends around me with the same core values and beliefs is one of the main reasons why I stayed in church throughout my teenage years and beyond. Having a few close friends that you trust who are also pursuing to grow in their faith is a healthy thing to have around you. There is a quote I love that says “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. Have you ever considered who those people are and the impact that they have on your life? Maybe it’s time to start hanging out with different people, or maybe it’s time to reach out to those people who you already know and ask to be held accountable by them? Having a mixture of close friends and spiritual leaders/mentors is a good start. Your mentors should inspire and challenge you to grow your faith, while your peers can offer support and encouragement to you whilst they are in a similar stage of life.
3. Commit to daily spiritual practices
One of the oldest and most effective practices in the Christian faith is reading the Bible which is the word of God and Prayer, talking to God. It is written over and over again in the scriptures that these two practices will grow your faith and your relationship with God. Whatever your faith teaches you are good habits, put them into practice! It’s simple really. The more you practice something the easier it is to do and the easier it is to give it the time. When you first start it may feel like a drag, it may feel really hard to spare 15 minutes out of your day to pray. As you commit to doing these things daily they often become more engaging, more life giving and they become an essential part of your faith rather than an add on. I dare you to start doing one spiritual practice this week!
4. Stop trying to please others
Your faith is exactly what it says on the tin… YOURS. The goal of your faith is not to keep your parents, your family, your friends or even your spiritual leaders happy. There is no point doing things in order to please other people if they don’t bring you life and help your faith grow. Stop pretending, start being real with yourself and with other people. It might be time to choose a different community to worship with even if it’s not the popular choice. It might be time to choose some relationships over others because ultimately you know that they will help you grow in your faith. For some of you it might be time to take a step back and ask yourself the question why do I believe this stuff? Is it my faith or is it my parents faith? You can’t build anything strong on uneven foundations, make sure that you are doing this for the right reasons.
5. Be intentional and prioritise your time
Life gets busy, it’s unpredictable. We all know that time stops for no man. It’s easy to get into the habit of saying “I will do that when I’ve got more time” or “when I’ve finished this then I’ll do that thing”. How many of us also know that that time never comes? There’s always another thing, someone asks you for a favour, you forgot to do that urgent thing for work or uni, there’s a family emergency. Make time. One of the most helpful things that I do is plan my week. On a Sunday afternoon my wife and I sit down and look over our calendars, rotas, to do lists, bank accounts and meal plan etc. and we double check what is coming up that week. This allows me to get an overview of my week and to plan ahead of time. In recent weeks I have been able to make plans with friends and mentors who keep me accountable, and keep those plans despite being more busy than I’ve ever been! By looking ahead and being intentional I can make decisions to control my life as much as possible rather than reacting to the next thing that comes up. Prioritising has also meant that I have had to cut things out of my life and say no to some opportunities which I would love to do but can’t because other things that I am already committed would suffer. Sometimes it’s healthy to say no and focus on a few things and do them well.
Your faith should be an enriching experience, it should cause you to grow as a person and to experience life to the full. If it currently isn’t serving that purpose for you then try some of these ideas out for a while, trust the process!
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