Many college and seminary students are either preparing for another semester of school to start or have already begun working on classes. For some, this will be their final semester before graduation. Though some may have already determined the next step, others are still weighing options (or trying to find some). A myriad of factors contribute to what choice to make—where would I like to live, what would I like to do, what company would I enjoy, will this be a good fit for my spouse (or allow me to keep looking for a spouse), should I go for more schooling, etc. For those still deciding, let me propose a factor that is not on most people’s radar—should I go back to my home church?
The disregard most American Christians have for the church is disheartening. This disregard evidences itself in how little we think about our local church when living our lives—school, work, hobbies, sports/clubs, entertainment, and a whole host of things dominate the schedule while commitment to the church is squeezed in if possible. Even when attending a service, we give little thought to how we can prepare ourselves spiritually and what we can do personally to worship God and serve others.
The low priority of the local church is even more pronounced when considering career moves. We mull over the weather, schooling options, housing costs, convenience, career advancement, and nearly everything else before deciding to take a job or move to a new location but almost never consider whether there is a healthy local church where we will be going (not to mention the effect the move will have on our own local church).
The presence of a good local church where we can be actively involved should be a crucial factor in our life choices. Since the local church is practically inconsequential in the decisions of most Christians, it comes as no surprise that most students give little to no thought to the local church when determining what to do with their life after school.
But I’d like to encourage students not to merely consider the importance of a local church in general for their decisions, but to consider their home church in particular. Many of you have benefited greatly from your home church. Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and pastors faithfully taught you God’s Word so that you could grow as a Christian. They prayed for you as you considered where to go to school and what to study and continued praying for you as you worked on your degree. For many, your local church helped support you financially and spiritually so that you could serve on a missions/ministry trip. They have invested much in your life.
And now, you are moving into a stage of life in which you can begin to invest more fully in others. Why not consider giving back to the church that gave so much to you? Why not look for a job that will allow you to return to your home church? Why not join those who ministered to you so that you can minister to and with them? Why not work to help your home church grow and be strengthened?
I’m not saying everyone needs to go back to their home church (I didn’t). Other factors certainly come into play. Nor would I want to discourage people from helping with a church plant after finishing school (though some of your home churches may be doing a church plant that you could join). But I do want to encourage you to at least consider going back to your home church—to perhaps take a job that is less appealing in order to serve those who served you. Allow those who labored to help you grow enjoy some of the fruits of their labor.