Over the years as I’ve taught and coached college students, one of the main struggles they face in their first year is how to develop authentic community where they are—on the campus.
One of the most challenging things some face is just getting to know others and doing life together. Why is that important? To some this question is misplaced, as the answer may seem obvious. To others, the question of the value of community is a legitimate one. After all, “aren’t you there to study and earn a degree so that you can get a job? Well, yes, but studies have shown that a meaningful sense of belonging in the community is crucial to academic success. More than that, as Christians we believe that fellowship in deep community is essential for spiritual, as well as, intellectual growth (cf. Hebrews 10:25).
You might be thinking, “This community thing is important, but it just comes easy to me.” Great! Is it as good as it could possibly be? If it’s an 8 out of 10 for you, what would it take on your part to get to a 10? Furthermore, who around you is struggling with community? I guarantee someone is. How can you help?
5 Healthy Habits that Lead to Deeper Community
Here are 5 healthy habits I’ve observed students engaging in so that they can make the most of deep community and meaningful friendships during the college years:
See how many of these you’re engaging in on a daily and weekly basis.
- Don’t wait to get to know your professors. Make appointments to see them after class. Have good questions ready about the material so that you can go deeper into the subject matter. Most students make these appointments only when they are struggling with their grades. That’s a rather passive approach. Instead, demonstrate that you want to get the most of the course. If you’re nervous that the professor will blow you off, don’t be. Most professors I’ve known will gladly meet with a student who has taken a sincere interest in his or her course.
- Regularly ask these questions: how am I being a friend to others? What’s it like to be on the other end of me? How can I serve someone else today?
- Plug in at a local church and proactively speak with others. Get to know people of different ages. Invite them to have coffee with you on campus. Also, pick at least one campus ministry (preferably, one that meets weekly) to plug into in an authentic way.
- Get a mentor, or two, or three. These people won’t replace mom and dad, but eventually you’re going to be on your own. Mom and dad won’t always, and shouldn’t want to, be your primary go-to problem solving committee for everything. Solid mentors can help you think about new ways of living your life with a compelling vision, passion, and commitment.
- Be a good question-asker in general. This one may be the hardest one to cultivate, but if you do it will become second-nature. How many statements do you utter each day compared to the number of questions you ask? We often don’t think to ask others good questions that let them know we are seeking to understand them. Why not? Because the truth is that too often we’re self-absorbed. Too often we are thinking about “my” courses, “my” activities, “my” life. It takes a sincere curiosity about someone else’s life to ask good questions. How often do you ask others questions in ways that demonstrate authenticity and interest in them?