Thousands of young people are preparing to move to University, but is your church ready to connect with the students who arrive in your town or city?
The first question we must ask ourselves is why connect and reach with students? Over the 14 years of student ministry I have heard these remarks said many times
‘They drain resources’
‘They are lazy’
‘They are here for 3 years then leave us’
‘They don’t bring income to the Church’
‘They bring their immaturity and mess into our Church – why invest?’
Now some of this maybe true; over the years I have had my fair share of pastoral stress, countless hours of investment and 50% of the time no instant results, or to be more biblical ‘fruit’.
But what if our perspective was wrong and indicative of a faulty philosophy of ministry?
When a novelist sits down to write a narrative, there is a question they ask themselves in order to create exciting and meaningful stories, and that same question can also create a more exciting and meaningful life and Church. That question is: ‘What if?’
J.R.R. Tolkien once asked the question What if there existed a place called Middle Earth, and What if Middle Earth were under threat? Every good story begins with some form of this question, and so does every life.
What if there in your City, there in your University, awaits a young man or woman a follower of Jesus or not whose destiny it is to be:
Your first or 10th Church planter
A future staff member
A wealthy business person
A core family in the church
The list could go on…
We saw the potential in them and gave them opportunities to lead.
A student called Sarah came to our Church as a fresher. We welcomed her, discipled her and watched as she grew in faith. She met a young man at University who wasn’t a follower of Jesus at the time. She invited him on an Alpha where he met Jesus, became a Christian. They dated, got engaged and married as students, and now run a student small group in the Church and oversee the youth. We saw the potential in them and gave them opportunities to lead and just watched what God was doing in their lives!
Neville became a Christian at University through our servant evangelism. Desperate to hear from God, he was on his knees one day asking that if God was real, he would show up. We knocked on his door at that moment and gave him free washing up liquid as a show of God’s love. Neville is now a leader in the Church and works for Vineyard records.
Yohan was flaky during first year; he came to Church early on but was never consistent. I challenged him about his attitude having seen potential in him and after that he got heavily involved. Through his University life we gave him opportunities to lead, he ran small groups and oversaw mission on campus in his third year. Through investing in him and discipling him we have seen him grow and step into his calling. He now works full time for the Church overseeing the student ministry.
I know if we had not pioneered and poured time, energy and resource into the student ministry we would not have experienced the incredible move of God we have seen over the years.
if you build it they will come
I want to encourage you to start planning and preparing for students arriving in your area. I want to implore you not to have a ‘que sera sera’ mentality but a ‘if you build it they will come’ mindset that prepares for growth and influence.
I once heard this analogy which really helped me in altering faulty philosophies of ministry. Have you ever carried a heavy object like a piano or wardrobe with a bunch of other people? The reality is there is always one person there (usually me!) who, the reality is, if they were to remove their hands from underneath the heavy object it would not make the slightest bit of difference. In other words, they had the appearance of carrying the burden and responsibility but actually weren’t contributing at all.
I believe as a Church ‘thinks so she is’. If we think that students are not important and carry the stereotypes I outlined at the beginning then we won’t see them come. If our perspective is: ‘the Christian Union is reaching everyone’ or ‘that Church down the road, that’s the ‘student church’’, then we are missing out on a great Kingdom opportunity.
Students are at a period in their lives where they are simply asking questions . Those questions take many forms whether it be verbalised or act ionised. But they are seeking; they are hungry for spirituality.
Here are some ways you can help facilitate the extension of the kingdom
:: Foster an ‘influencers mentality’ in your students. Many Churches build a survival mentality into the thinking of students rather than recognising that when they go to university they aren’t there just to avoid peer pressure and get a degree but bring radical change to the lives of many and the institution itself.
:: Serve. Communicating God’s heart and love through washing the feet of those around you is incredibly powerful. As we committed to serve our campus we have had sterotypes broken, credibility created and favour followed.
:: Partner. You don’t have to do this all on your own. We aren’t the solution but part of the solution and as we seek to partner with people and other Churches and the Students union God multiplys our efforts.
:: Build the wall in front of you. Each one of us is called to be faithful to what is in front of us. To share faith with those we meet every day, to serve those in need in our communities, to build bridges with local people and students. If you have just one student –great! Raise them up to start a small group or a prayer meeting.
:: Counter culture. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. When we live radically different lives, lives that reflect who Jesus is, people begin to notice that there is something different about us and long to know what it is!
:: Realise that mission and discipleship are inextricably linked. Ignoring one or the other causes huge problems for the Church. We need to be a people that get sent out into the world and culture (as missionaries) to make disciples.