If you went to college as a believer and got plugged into a good Christian ministry and a local church, then if you think about it, college was kind of like four long years of church camp.
Every night is a slumber party, you’re in a small group of peers who studies the Bible and talks about life, you have “chapel” a couple times a week, you have a discipler (counselor), and when you get old enough, you start discipling your own “campers.” There are bonfires and singing and sports and craft nights and nature walks and cafeteria meals and tubing down the river and journaling and care packages from home and friendship bracelet making and a million other things that make these four years feel like one long camp.
And then they expect you to be an adult. They expect you to get a job and get a house and get a spouse and somehow among all that still continue all the spiritual activities that you did at your 4-year church camp.
Sure, it would be great if we could continue meeting with people virtually every day of the week, spend multiple weekends a year at retreats, and be continually poured into, but that just isn’t the reality for most of us after college. The reality looks a little more like moving to a new place, and trying to find a church body (not to mention a small group!) amidst working 40 hours a week at a new job, while still juggling family, friends, and perhaps a new spouse. It can be overwhelming!
If you think about it, just the sheer proximity of a college campus allows so much more “life on life” to happen than living in your house in the suburbs, or being spread out across multiple cities. All of a sudden, if you want to get together with someone for discipleship, it’s not just a 3 minute walk across the quad, it’s a 30 minute drive through traffic.
And let’s be real, unless you’re like Brian, and studied engineering while working, you probably had a surplus of time in college. Extra time to meet and read and pray and sing and do all these other really great spiritual things that grow you and stretch you and give you lots to think about. But once you’re in the working world? A lot of that time goes away.
So it’s time we give ourselves grace. Life isn’t going to look like it did in college. Our walk with the Lord, spiritual disciplines, and community life isn’t going to look the same. But that’s okay. It’s okay to accept the fact that college may have been like 4 long years of church camp, and now that we’re out of it, we need to learn new ways to relate to God and people. We need to find new rhythms and patterns that work for life outside of college. And we need to ask God to help us stay close to Him if college was a place we really thrived.
It’s been almost five years since I graduated. And granted, I did full-time college ministry for the two years following college, which may be even more like church camp than college itself was. 🙂 But the two years after I was done with college ministry? They were hard. Getting in the Word, journaling, praying, having conversations centered on Christ… these were all things that I did all the time previously, but that suddenly felt very hard once “real life” hit. It’s only been in the past 6–9 months that I’ve been able to take my own advice, say it’s okay that things look different than they did in college, and really take ownership of my spiritual growth.
And I can say it is so worth it.
Love, Team Douglas