Living on campus

Joanna Holman | Jan 5th, 2013

Sometimes you will hear rumours passed around of a culture of immorality, peer pressure and craziness in university halls of residence (or colleges). In my experience, reality is usually not like the rumours and living in halls has mostly been a positive experience. However, it isn’t without its challenges for Christians. You need to be deliberate about how you act if you want to thrive as a Christian while living on campus. Here are a few things you will need to work on.

Get into good habits

When you lived at home your parents probably made sure that you got enough sleep, ate well, studied and had other such important habits. Living at halls you have to learn to develop the self-discipline to do the right things without their prompting. The need for good habits applies to your spiritual life too.

It is really important that you find yourself a church and get committed to it. Occasional visits to your church back home when visiting your family or sometimes going to random local churches when you can be bothered getting up on a Sunday morning probably won’t be enough to help you grow spiritually. As great as they can be, a campus Christian group should not be used as a substitute for church either. If attending a new church where you don’t know anyone is too intimidating, find another Christian from halls or your campus Christian group to go with.

It is also important that you get yourself into a regular habit of prayer and Bible reading. If you don’t plan it, you will probably get sucked into the time wasting many halls residents are too good at and not get around to it. It may be wise to get a Bible reading plan and have a list of things to be praying for if it will help you stay on track.

Be clear (but not pushy) about your faith from the start

I certainly don’t advocate agressively ‘Bible bashing’ other residents. You do have to live with these people for the rest of the year, so you don’t want to alienate them! However, I would advise that you be communicating at least something about your faith from the start of your time at halls. In some cases this could be as simple as saying that you’re going to church when discussing your plans for the weekend. The longer you have been around your fellow halls residents without them knowing what you believe, the more difficult and unnatural it starts to feel when the topic eventually comes up in more serious conversation.

Attend what you can

You might find that there are sometimes social events that would be unwise for you as a Christian to attend. Don’t use that as an excuse to withdraw completely. Your fellow residents will probably notice if you are never at halls events and the assumptions they make are unlikely to be positive, especially if they know you are a Christian. Do your best to be involved in as much of halls life as you can in good conscience. Sometimes the best response may be to go to parties but only drink very moderately (or not at all) or only go for part of the event. Sometimes this may mean going to events that are not morally problematic but not normally your thing.

If you aren’t a fan of what is already happening, start some activities yourself. I found a dessert-baking and eating night to be a huge hit. The dessert night was also a great chance to introduce halls friends to friends from elsewhere. I’m sure you could come up with even better ideas.

Know your convictions

The best time to work out your convictions and your responses to moral and ethical issues is before you have to act on them. Your judgement and response will likely be nowhere near as good if you are trying to work things out on the spot.

One of the ethical issues I’ve faced the most in halls has been media piracy.[1] I believe that Christians should not pirate media, however piracy of movies and music is extremely common in my hall. I have had to learn how to deal with how to graciously deal with the strong expectation that I will participate and learn how to find the media I want legally and affordably. The issues may be different for you but regardless of what they are, thinking about them, praying and searching the Scriptures are important.

Thrive on campus

Hopefully I haven’t scared you off moving into halls! Living in halls does have its challenges but it can also be a good experience and a chance to meet lots of great people. If you take the right steps, you can not only survive as a Christian but thrive for Jesus.

[1] To think more about the issue of piracy check out this article.