September 25, 2014 | Grace Ruiter

Creston Christian Reformed Church is one of the 125 churches listed in the online church directory.

Calvin senior Laura Sheppard didn’t find a church home in the Grand Rapids area until her junior year.

“It’s really hard to find a church,” Sheppard said. “And if I found one I liked, I wouldn’t always have a ride to it. So my friends had to like it, too.”

Unfortunately, Sheppard’s story is not an unusual one. In a survey of 50 Calvin students, 28 percent of the respondents did not have a church they attended regularly. It can be especially hard for first-year students to know where to begin their search for a church.

Making the search easier

Student Senate is hoping to make the church search a little easier. Last December, senate launched an online church directory for Calvin students. The directory, which can be found in the campus ministries section of Calvin’s website, includes 125 different churches in the Grand Rapids area. Senate based the directory on information they gathered when they sent out a survey to the 125 churches.

“The idea with choosing those churches was to feature churches that a lot of college students attend,” student senate president Jona Eigege explained.

The churches in the directory are organized in alphabetical order by denomination. There are also links to each of the 27 denominational sections at the top of the page. 

The directory includes service times, website links, phone numbers and addresses for all of the listed churches. It also indicates whether the church offers transportation for students who need it.

When the directory launched, according to Eigege, it drew heavy traffic from students. However, he does not know how many students are utilizing the tool now.

Word of Mouth

Currently, most Calvin students discover their churches through word of mouth. Fifty-eight percent of the Calvin students surveyed who do have a church home found their church through either friends or family.

It was through friends that, after three years of searching, Sheppard finally found Crossroads Bible Church, her home church.

“I had friends that went to Crossroads, and I really liked the worship style,” Sheppard said. “They always have people give testimony, so it feels very welcoming. I also like that the messages are always biblically-based and challenging.”

Finding a community

When asked what they appreciate about their churches, like Sheppard, more than half of the students surveyed brought up the welcoming atmosphere and sense of community their churches provide.

“I love my church because it’s a small community; everyone knows my name,” said senior Emily Finch, who attends Creston Christian Reformed Church:

Freshman Maribol Cano, who goes to Casa De Oracion, added:

“My church is a family more than anything. Presence of God is there in the community.”

Style of worship

Many students also brought up the importance of worship style and strong preaching as key to choosing a church. Senior Christine Lim appreciates the preaching style and friendliness at Grand Rapids First.

“Lot of times churches use lofty language, but this one hones it down while still using the bible as the basis. People are also really friendly. Even though it’s a megachurch it still has a home feeling,” Lim said.

Senior Christian Becker was drawn to the contemporary worship style and community at Ada Bible.

“I really liked the style of worship, the contemporary song choices and welcoming community there. It reminded me of my church back home,” Becker said.

Expanding the directory

While a directory can’t quantify the communal atmosphere of a church, Eigege is hoping to add more information about factors like worship style and service opportunities to the directory this year.

“Senate got information about worship style and opportunities for students to serve, as well as other factors when we did the initial survey, Eigege said. “We could add that information to the directory and maybe make it searchable by those preferences. That’s our next step.”

Senate is looking to update the website by the end of this year.

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