1) Why it's important to get into a church right from the beginning of your time at university
The first few weeks at university are full of new experiences, busyness, and getting used to a new routine and a new way of life. So sometimes new students are tempted to think 'Oh, I'll find a church in a few weeks when everything's calmed down a bit and life is less busy.' The problem is that things don't really calm down a bit, life's never really less busy, and and you've started the habit of putting off going to church.
In fact, church isn't another busy thing to add to your first week. No - it's a rest from the busyness of your new uni life. True, it might not be the same people and things might not be done the same way as your church back at home, but even despite the differences, there will be something there that's the same — or, rather, someone. Jesus is the same. And even if you don't know anyone in your new church yet, even if all the songs are different, even if it doesn't have the same weekly round of meetings that you're used to at home, the most important thing is exactly the same: Jesus.
And it's Jesus who offers you rest from both the stresses and the excitement of your new university life. You need Him just as much in freshers week as you did last year during your A-Levels, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is your salvation. So you need to come and hear His Word, eat at His Table, and have your eyes pointed afresh to Jesus, week after week at church.
Don't put off going to church when you arrive at university. Make it your top priority right from the beginning.
2) But What If I've Never Been To Church Before?
Well then, this is the perfect opportunity to try it out and see what it's all about. The start of your university life is always full of new experiences, so why not make going along to church one of them. But when I say try it out, I don't just mean pop in for 15 minutes once. No, find a church that will tell you about Jesus and why He died on the Cross and rose again for you, and go along and listen to that good news. And keep going, keep listening, keep talking to the people there and asking them to explain. There will be people there who'll be really happy to help you with your questions because they'll really want you to know who Jesus is and what He's done. (Oh, and by the way, if the church you try out the first Sunday doesn't tell you about Jesus and His Cross — for unfortunately there are a few that are much more interested in other things — then find a different one the next week that will!)
3) Why, if you're coming to Leeds, Leeds Apostolic Church might be a good church for you.
Now, if you're going to be part of a church at university, first you have to find one. So, seeing as I'm the pastor of a church in Leeds, let me suggest a few reasons why, if you're coming to Leeds, our church might be a good church for you.
First and foremost, we're a church where you'll hear about Jesus. And not just once in a while on a special Sunday. You'll hear about who Jesus is and what He has done for you every Sunday. We preach Christ, we sing songs that are full of the gospel, and we meet with Jesus at His Table each week in the Lord's Supper. And that means two things: 1) You'll be built up in the gospel and pointed back to Jesus (because that's how we grow as Christians) and 2) You can always invite friends along knowing that they'll hear the gospel (because that's how God saves people).
We're not a big church. We don't have lots of programmes and specialised activities. Our music isn't all that impressive. But we do have Jesus. And Jesus is what we really need.
Now, as I said, we're not a big church. We're a small church. But there can be some advantages in that. The church is small enough that you'll quickly get to know everyone, and everyone will quickly get to know you. Which means you'll have people praying for you. You'll have elders who know you, care for you, and want to help you grow as a disciple of Jesus. And there'll be opportunities to get involved in helping with things too.
If you want to know a bit more about what our services are like and what to expect when you come along, then have a look here. The church is just down the street from the Kirkstall Brewery Halls of Residence for Leeds Metropolitan University (or Leeds Beckett University as it will be in a few weeks!). If you're living in Headingley, you can get the bus down to the Kirkstall Morrisons (just beyond the leisure centre), and the church is just a five minute walk round the corner from that. Here's a map, address and service times. You'll also find contact details and lots more information about the church on our website. (By the way, the picture at the top of the post is of our building so you'll know what it looks like.)
4) There are plenty of other churches in Leeds (and elsewhere) — so here are some things to look for when you're looking for a good church
We're not the only church in Leeds, or perhaps you're going to university somewhere else and need to find a church in another town. So what are some things to look out for to find a good church?
First, look for a church that tells you about Jesus — the Jesus who died on the Cross for your sins and rose again the third day. Christianity is all about Jesus and what He's done, not about what we do. So the most important thing is to hear about Jesus, and to be fed with Jesus, in His Word and at His Table.
And look for a church that trusts Jesus' Word, the Bible. We meet with Jesus in His Word, so look for somewhere where they preach Jesus from the Bible, where they trust the Bible for God's answers, and where Scripture is always the highest authority, because when Scripture speaks, God speaks.
So the most important question in finding a church isn't what sort of music they have or what activities and meetings, but rather what do they believe. Do they believe in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who died in our place on the Cross and rose again the third day? Do they believe that salvation is by God's grace to us in Jesus alone, and not based on anything we do? Do they believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible? Look and see! (And it's not just about whether it's on a piece of paper or a statement on a website. Is this what's being preached? Can you see the impact of these truths in the life of the church?) These truths are much more important than music, or programmes, or numbers, or anything else, because it's in the truth of Jesus that life is found.
So, don't put off finding a church when you get to university, wherever that may be. You need church, because you need people to keep pointing you to Jesus.