College Checklist

By Byron Washington, Columnist

As students prepare to head off to college, their university or college usually provide them with a checklist of suggested items they should be sure to bring.  From doing campus ministry in North Carolina and Connecticut, there is one item that parents and students should remember, even though it will not be on the list.  That item is deciding what church they attend.

Many students go to school as Christians. For the last 18 years or so, they have gone to church with their parents, grandmother, neighbor, or friend. When they go to school (assuming they go away from home) that pattern has a tendency to be broken.

I remember going to school at Winston-Salem State University. I grew up in the AME Zion Church (please do not stop reading) and there were two churches in proximity to my school but it took me a few Sundays before I even attended. Why? I had to go through extra steps like calling the church, trying to find out if they had a van, and requesting a ride to church and back to campus.

So, I always encourage parents to make the effort to directly connect your child to a church. Talk to the pastor or youth minister and let them know your child plans on attending their church. If you are in a large denomination, even better. Do not leave it up to your child to make that decision. There were so many students I ran into doing college ministry who were faithful at their home church but it would be the end of October and they still would not have stepped foot inside a church since being on campus.

We cannot leave their spiritual growth to chance. In college, young people either grow closer to God or drift away. Find out what campus ministries are available. Find out what is on campus that will be able to enhance their spiritual development. They do not need help finding the parties, social organizations, Greek organizations, or sports activities. Trust me, all those entities will seek them out.

There is almost always at least one “church” that comes on campus to pick up kids but just because the van says “church” does not mean that they are the right church for your child. What are their beliefs? What is their doctrine? Who is the pastor? What kind of church is it? I have seen my share of college students connecting to churches with incorrect theology and poor doctrine and they become more lost in their faith than an unbeliever.

Make the effort to connect them with a church. That investment will yield far-reaching returns. For more of my thoughts on college and youth ministry, check out my latest podcast at

Byron Washington, MPA is an author, consultant, youth mentor, and life coach. He and his family currently reside in Shanghai, China. For more about him visit:

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