New University of Colorado students looking for ways to express their faith will find no shortage of options when the semester begins Aug. 26.

Students arriving at the Boulder campus for the first time might have grown up in one particular religion and would like to find a community that helps them continue to express that faith. Others might be venturing into new spiritual expressions or challenging their long-held beliefs.

With about 30 faith-based groups on campus, faith leaders know students have a lot of options. They have this advice: Don't be afraid to explore, explore, explore.

"We want students to follow their gut," said Roger Wolsey, pastor at Wesley Fellowship, a United Methodist student group just off campus that already is gearing up for school to start.

"We want students to find somewhere that matches their values ... if a group is based more on guilt-inducing than soul-enlivening, that might be a sign that it's not for them."

To be supportive of students' transitions, it's important for faith-based groups to trust students to follow their hearts, said Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm, who heads the Jewish group Chabad at CU.

Wilhelm said his goal is to support the whole student, not just one's religious needs.

Chabad helps connect Jewish students with High Holidays services and offers a weekly Shabbat dinner and other programs to nurture Jewish life, but Chabad's true calling has gone far beyond that, Wilhelm said.

"Probably more than half of what we do is counseling," he said. "Most of the calls we get are after 9 or 10 at night. Roommate problems. School problems. Students call from jail."

Student life can get confusing, and students who contemplate their spirituality might need a place to land where it's OK to ask questions while they figure out their lives, said Richard Robledo, leader of Progressive Radically Inclusive Student Ministry (PRISM).

PRISM's goal is to expose college students to Boulder's richly diverse spiritual community and let students know it's OK to question long-held beliefs or learn more about traditions they didn't follow when they were younger.

"PRISM is a place where people can come to talk about faith without having to agree with any particular doctrine," Robledo said.

With all the distractions of college -- from new classes to new friends to parties and clubs and sports -- "we just want students to know that they can still be a spiritual being and you don't need to put that aside in school. It can still walk with you, even if you've decided that maybe you don't want to go to church anymore," he said.

PRISM identifies as mostly ecumenical but also has a large number of Unitarian Universalist and GLBT students. Open to anyone, the group invites speakers from different faith traditions to talk about their experiences and beliefs, Robledo said.

PRISM tends to draw students who are looking to explore their religious path in a new way or are curious about the depth and breadth of the world's spirituality, he said.

Wolsey said curiosity is a big part of student life at CU. While students ask questions and expand their minds about math, science and philosophy, it's only fair they ask big questions about faith, too.

"To my mind, a healthy campus ministry allows students to challenge and push back (on ideas) and come to a place where their own their faith on their own terms," he said.

When life gets confusing, Wilhelm said, he hopes students consider finding some guidance from a faith-based community, which can help foster a sense of place while letting students figure out their lives.

"Students know that life isn't always easy. There might be a feeling of emptiness ... but religion can be an amazing way to find a meaningful life," he said.

For a full list of CU's faith-based groups, visit colorado.edu/studentgroups/rco.

Megan Quinn writes a faith column once a week for the Camera. Contact her at quinnm@dailycamera.com.