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At Grace Community Church we have been working hard to process what college ministry should look like in our context. (big thanks to Brandon Reed who leads our college and high school ministries) I also know that every student pastor out there is trying to figure out how to best set up students to have a smooth transition into college life. Our team at RELEVANT Student Ministry has been so blessed to be able to watch tons of our students leave our ministry and then find spiritual family in their new college setting. Today I wanted to ask one of them, Grant Caldwell a student at the University of Tennessee, what he was looking for in a church when he left for college. Check this out…


Going off to college can be such a huge change in your life. Most of the new stuff you can prepare for though. You visit the college, you apply to it, you pick out the new furniture for your dorm. You have a feel for what you are getting thrown into. One thing that you’re not ready for though, and there really isn’t any way to prepare for, is a new church. Most of the time you don’t think about the change until it’s your last Sunday at your own church. These are four things that I looked at the most when I got to try out churches in Knoxville…

Worship >> I realized it after I got to college: I got spoiled by the music at Grace and Remix. Worship is such a big part of my morning at church. It prepares me for the message and gets me connected with God, and most of the time it’s the first indication of how the service is going to be. I’m not a hymns type of guy. You can check this out online before, most churches will tell you if it is a contemporary or traditional church.

Pastor >> This might be an obvious one to list, but sometimes its one that can be overlooked too. Leave a church one Sunday without getting anything out of the message and you’ll completely understand. It’s something that never happened to me at Grace, but it’s happened a couple times since moving up here. It’s a bad feeling. Find a preaching style that matches up with your learning style. This ultimately ends up being one of the most important things to me.

Atmosphere >> This is sort of a big category, but I group everything not part of the service as its atmosphere. This includes how welcome the members make me feel, how formal the church is, and even the setup when you walk in the doors. Every church has its own personality, and its important to find one that fits you. Grace has helped me feel comfortable in jeans at church, and if that’s the case for you too, be looking for it in your new church.

Serve >> Teaching at Cross Street was one of the best parts of my Sundays, and it was one of the first things I looked for in a church up here. For me, this led me to look at smaller church plants that would give me the chance to serve earlier.

You’ll eventually find a church that suits you. An easy way to find them is by getting involved with an on campus ministry- BCM, Campus Crusades for Christ, Navigators, Younglife. Get connected with upperclassmen with similar views and they will point you in the right direction with churches.