As students settle into their new environments it's vital that churches who want to see growing student and twenties communities, engage in practical ways to support encourage and love their students and young people. Vicki Cavolina from Christ Church London shares some of their ideas on why the local church and it's message of Jesus Christ can bring hope to our campuses.
It’s a time of change and relocation for students and for churches, an incredible opportunity to see remarkable transformation as students begin to grapple with faith and live it out independently of home comforts. But for this to happen effectively, students need to be in a local church.
Transition is exciting, but most students will feel a sense of uncertainty over the coming weeks. Will I make friends? Will I get along with the people I’m living with? Will I really need to live off of baked beans and smart price bread for a year? All of these issues can be tackled by the local church, but first of all, students need to find one. For youth leaders, it’s vital that you’re encouraging new students to get involved in a new church, and for student workers, it’s essential that you’re finding the most innovative ways possible to reach out to the arriving student population.
If churches want to see growing student communities developing, then they need to find practical ways to support encourage and love their students and young people. So, here are a few pointers.
1. Pray. It’s not to be underestimated. Committing things in prayer, and asking a God to whom nothing is impossible, is the most certain way of seeing things work out positively.
2. Resource. Help new students by researching good churches in their university towns, then giving them contact details, times, and directions.
3. Support. Make sure they’re sent out well by their home church. Ensure you give them a call a few weeks in to check how they’re doing; that they aren’t dying of Fresher’s flu, and haven’t really been surviving purely on take-away and energy drink.
4. Plan. For churches that are expecting new students, there have to be engaging events and a group of people that are passionate about welcoming students. Freebies like food often help, but more than anything it’s about being accessible. If you’re difficult to find and difficult to connect with, students won’t want to return.
5. Commit. Home and away, churches need to show young people that they’re valued; whether it’s over weekly chats at Starbucks, or care packages sent from miles away.
6. Invest. Students have gifts, just like the rest of the church. In time, they’re going to be leaders, and most probably, as Freshers, they’ve got some time on their hands. It’s definitely worth investing in them, and using the opportunities available to teach, disciple and encourage.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and in all honesty, the more creative the better.
The local church can be an amazing community. For the lonely student, it’ll be immediate access to friends. For the confused student, it’ll be teaching and support when they start to dissect their faith. For the adventurous student, it’ll be new opportunities and new areas to grow and serve in. For the scared student, the church will be a place of refuge. For the enquiring student, the church might be their first point of call before they’re introduced to Jesus. In all of these things, the local church is essential, and students that don’t get in, miss out.