North Texas Daily

The value of religious communities within campus

The value of religious communities within campus

The value of religious communities within campus
April 30
23:30 2018

Last Sunday, I strayed from my routine and decided to move my studies to West Oak Coffee Bar — an upstanding establishment, if I do say so myself.

Though I have frequented West Oak since moving to Denton, my most recent experience was unlike any of its predecessors.

I’ve always enjoyed the intimate atmosphere, the friendly staff and the anomalously kind individuals who patronize the coffee bar. However, this experience was particularly pleasant as I was surrounded by a multitude of Bible studies and other religious groups’ meeting for what I assume to be their weekly gathering.

I couldn’t help but smile as I nosily eavesdropped on their conversations. It was beautiful to witness individuals with shared beliefs and values, who study the intricacies of faith and life’s purpose.

With all of that being said, I started thinking about the benefits of joining religious communities on campus or elsewhere.

It encourages togetherness and community building

College is, often times, a period of immense loneliness for many students, and I can attest to this reality.

Until my senior year, I was one of those students. College students are starving to find meaning and secure a place in the world, just like I was. Having a stable, reliable friend group is a quintessential step in discovering that meaning and creating that place. Not only are religious communities a breeding ground for friendship, but those friendships have a covalent bond formed by mutual beliefs and values.

It aids in establishing routine

On a more superficial level, joining a religious community of any kind can help establish a routine and help one practice discipline during a time of life when we would all much rather stay home and watch reruns of “Parks and Recreation.” Those friendships — the ones I discussed above — serve as a tool to hold one another accountable. Personally, I lead worship on Sunday mornings at my church, and, I won’t lie, without that accountability to which I am held, showing up to church would be much more difficult.

These communities force critical thinking by challenging preconceived beliefs

In today’s secular colleges, it is overwhelmingly evident that religious values are studied and looked upon with extreme scrutiny and skepticism. Fantastic! That is a good thing, and a religious group — if you are so inclined to join, of course — is a beautifully kairotic environment to challenge your most deeply held beliefs. Whether or not you change your mind or hold tightly to your initial beliefs is up to you (obviously), but religious communities cause individuals to think critically about deeply planted internal values. I would make the argument that — in all facets of life — exposing oneself to new ideas that may challenge one’s own is healthy and conducive to the self-discovery I mentioned earlier.

Emphasis on community leadership

Often, religious groups are some of the most active in the community at large. Whether it is a group as large as Christian Community Action or as small as a mosque, church or synagogue, they all serve the community in one way or another. My church participates in both local and foreign mission trips with the goal of providing for the needy and sharing God’s word with no expectation of compensation. In all cases, however, leadership is absolutely needed, and being involved with a religious community holds immense potential for leadership experience and participation.

Can other, more secular groups perform many of these same functions? Of course they can! I felt a calling to write specifically about religious communities simply because they are unique in their beliefs and practices, and because I was so inspired to see so many college students exploring the intricacies of their respective religions cooperatively. Everyone could benefit from joining a religious community.

Featured Image: illustration by Allison Shuckman

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