On any given Sunday afternoon, the Caf is swarming with after-church goers. Among the many churches in San Diego, these students seem to only come from a small handful of them; every year or two, the “popular” church to attend at Loma seems to shift and sway. Among this coveted spot have been All Peoples, the Rock, Park Hill and Newbreak
This PLNU-phenomenon does raise the questions of “why?” and “what draws students to specific church?”
“I remember when Skyline had a Point advertisement, where they showed a pulpit full of cobwebs, showing it to be old and outdated, saying ‘come to our church where it’s alive,’” Steve Rodeheaver, Pastor at Southeast Church of the Nazarene and Bible professor at PLNU, says. “They are all like that to some extent, trying to say, ‘we’re the alive church.’”
Many churches appeal to different spiritual needs of students. The church fair held on campus at the beginning of every school year feeds into this; students are going to go where the church seems “alive” in whatever sense that means to them.
The “why” a single church gains popularity on campus is simple: students go where they feel invited. Steven Dols, a junior computer science major and attender of the Rock agrees.
“A lot of churches will say ‘invite someone with you next week!’ Or a freshman will have a junior sibling that’ll take them to church, or a student will find a church to go to and start pulling other students to go with them,” Dols said.
Chad McLain, a senior double major in graphic design and entrepreneurship, attends Normal Heights United Methodist Church. As a senior, he’s seen many churches come and go from the Point Loma spotlight, and provides insight into the shifts between churches.
Mclain says, “I’ve heard that people go where they can experience God. My personal perspective people are naturally going to go where their friends go, but either way, people are going to church, and God is going to meet them where they’re at.”
Many things can draw someone to church. For Dols, it’s the community he’s found while serving. McLain expressed God meeting him in different ways every Sunday. For some, it’s worship, the sermons or the people that greet them each week.
Rodeheaver advises students to find “a family, not a show; connectedness over a concert; connectedness with each other rather than inspiration.”
McLain reflected on the shift in churches over his years at Point Loma and said “PLNU has taught me there’s not right church or right Christian; there’s no box or rules. The student’s tastes have helped me understand that different isn’t wrong; it’s just different. Our differences are what make us the body of Christ.”