As freshmen are faced with committing to a church at the end of this semester, members of the BJU community share their advice on selecting a church for the duration of one’s college career.
Vice President for Student Development and Discipleship Dr. Alan Benson relates to the church selection process since he recently underwent it himself. After pastoring for many years, Benson was used to shepherding a church rather than searching for one. When he and his family moved to Greenville, they had to go through the process of finding a new home church.
Benson said he and his family first identified what they were looking for in a church and then went from there. Major steps for his family were to visit for five to six weeks, attend prospective membership classes and evaluate how their family could be involved with the church. Through this process, the Bensons chose a church where they felt like they could both grow and serve.
In addition to his personal experience, Benson wrote a dissertation on equipping Generation Z students at Christian colleges to select and commit to a church. His research and advanced insight led to expanding the church commitment requirement at BJU: after being given time to search churches, students are then required to commit to regular attendance at a specific church. “Our passion in doing all of this is one to have students personally internalize the importance of church for their spiritual life in general,” Benson said.
Benson said a difference has already been seen since implementing the church commitment requirement. Pastors have reported to him that they are seeing the same college students attend consistently, rather than seeing different students every week. “Students that actually Benson underwent his own family’s search for a church when they moved to Greenville in 2018. Photo: Lindsay Shaleen choose a church, and build that kind of community at church, actually do much better as a student at Bob Jones [University],” Benson said. “Their whole identity is not rooted just in their education.”
Regarding the high number of Gospel-preaching churches in the area, Benson recommends students first decide what they personally want to find in a church. “Narrowing, starting with you before you start with the church, is an important step,” he said. He also noted the benefits of technology to browse websites or listen to sermons remotely.
Division of Ministries faculty member and pastor Dr. Jason Ormiston said he believes students should attend a church where they will develop a bigger view of God. Truth and discipleship play a large part of his view.
As senior pastor of Palmetto Baptist Church in Piedmont, Ormiston has been able to interact with a variety of college students and see their impact on a church. College students played a significant role in Palmetto’s opening through serving in the nursery and children’s ministries. Ormiston credits these students for helping bring Palmetto to where it is today. He said, “We really value every person as an image-bearer of God.” To him, this means college students play an important role in the church and shouldn’t be thought of as merely extra people.
Ormiston also emphasized the importance of belonging and discipleship, and said Palmetto’s discipleship process of “come, grow, connect, go” should apply to church selection as a whole. He suggests students evaluate where they are spiritually and make decisions from there. “[Ultimately], go to churches that are not trying to hang on to you, go to churches that are trying to send you out,” he said.
Sophomore Giovanna Sasamine, who attends a church in Easley, said, “I chose the church I go to because I like the music and preaching; every [aspect] points to Christ and not to men.”
Students at BJU currently attend approximately 200 churches in the Greenville area. Students may visit the intranet home page to find a list of Greenville area churches.