Students react to campus ministries' recruiting tacticsBy Emma Cary | 09/13/2017 11:22pm
On the first day of the semester, Leland Durley walked through the busy Ferguson Student Center. It was the beginning of his college career. Students in matching T-shirts surrounded tables covered in fliers and other free merchandise. The phrase “You Belong Here!” in bright red letters caught his attention. He scanned the crowded room only to see more signs with the same message. All of them advertised the same type of community: church.
The University welcomes thousands of new students each August. Away from home, one of the many decisions freshmen face is whether to be involved in a local church.
Churches and ministries in Tuscaloosa often advertise on campus in hopes of reaching students. These attempts have not gone unnoticed by students in both positive and negative ways.
Emilia Cytron, a freshman majoring in biology, said she saw several handouts about local churches during her first week of school, including cups with candy.
“I’ve definitely been prompted with cups and fliers of activities going on,” Cytron said. “Certain church groups bring pizza into the dorms and tell us to join their group. We usually just go for the free pizza.”
Because Cytron has no intentions of being a member of a local church, the people advertising their ministries only remind her that she is not a part of them.
Some students, however, feel encouraged by the outreach of the local ministries because of the relationships built.
Durley, a freshman majoring in biology, said he is most influenced by the connections he has made when it comes to deciding on attending a church.
“I have been to a lot of them, even in my first week and a half of school,” Durley said. “The reason I go is not as much because of the fliers or free stuff passed out, but more because of the people I have met.”
Cooper Thompson, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, agreed with Durley on his influence of choosing churches.
“I am really close to my cousin who goes to UA, so I’ve been to church with him a few times,” Thompson said. “I also have friends that go to other churches and they’ve asked me to come. I’d like to try that too.”
For Durley and Thompson, it's not the advertisements that intimidate, but the number of churches in Tuscaloosa and choosing the right one.
“I think it’s awesome that there are so many resources here for people to use when it comes to being involved in a church,” Thompson said. “It gives so many opportunities for people to grow their faith.”
He mentioned that although he loves trying new churches, he wants to build community in one church.
“I want to try a lot of churches, but I also want to feel like I belong to one,” Thompson said, “like I have a home to go back to.”
Choosing the right church can be daunting, Durley agreed. He has tried several churches during his first weeks of college and enjoyed them all. He said it is hard to decide what fits best for him. Even in this transition phase, he continues his search.
“One of the reasons church is important to me is because it’s important to be plugged into a group of people and community that care about you,” Durley said. “Because, you know, it’s hard to do it on your own.”