How many stories have you heard like this?
The high number of Christians who seem to ditch their faith during university years should give us cause for concern. But university need not be a faith-demolishing experience. On the contrary, I found my three university years to be faith-enriching.
Of course, it’s only by God’s grace that anyone’s faith survives university (or any other life changing event). But I found the following five things each contributed to my faith growing significantly.
1. Join a church
It sounds obvious, but it’s so important. If your experiences of church up until now have been negative, don’t worry. University usually means moving to a city with hundreds of churches to choose from. There is guaranteed to be at least one suited to you. But don’t church shop for too long. Join and commit to a community as soon as possible (preferably before Christmas!).
2. Find your Christian Union
At their worst, Christian Unions (CUs) are inward looking, dull and dominated by a committee of people who all go to the same church. But at their best, Christian Unions are vibrant, fun communities made up of people who take Jesus’ call to both unity and mission very seriously.
The best CUs give students the opportunity to meet and learn from Christians of other denominations. They’re also great at outreach projects on campus, and give students the chance to be involved in Christian ministry. Having been tasked with co-leading my Christian union, I quickly developed a fresh sense of appreciation for all those involved in Christian ministry. While it was far from easy, it was also great fun, and I’ll be forever grateful for the immense privilege and learning experience.
3. Go OUT!
Go clubbing. Go to a gig. Join the chess club. Do all three in the same evening for all I care. Just please make sure you don’t spend so much time doing church and CU stuff that you get stuck in a Christian bubble. If in doubt (and assuming the activity isn’t sinful) just say ‘yes’ and go for it. University is all about opening your mind to new possibilities (this is partly why so many people become Christians at university). So don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.
My theology developed, grew, and changed as I attended events and conferences I would never have normally gone to (a conference for ‘emergent church’ types during the height of that particular movement was especially eye-opening). On another memorable evening a friend and I went to a loud, exuberant and uber-charismatic worship gig by Godfrey Birtill (‘ring a ding a ding a ding’) in a local church followed by a reflective, acoustic gig by Christian songwriter Noel Richards in a local bar. I loved both experiences.
4. Choose carefully who you’ll live with
If by the time second year approaches, you’re already spending lots of time in church and CU then you may want to avoid living just with Christian friends (see earlier comment about ‘the bubble’!). Conversely, living with those who share your faith can provide you with an amazing support network and be a real boost if you hit tough times. So choose wisely!
5. Work hard
And finally…try and remember to do some work. There’s a tendency in some university cultures to laugh, joke and even boast about how little work you’ve done that week. Remember £27,000 tuition fees, plus living costs, is a huge amount of money to waste! Plenty of students play hard, but working hard can be just as rewarding. Most importantly, good work honours God. University is as great a place as any to learn that lesson.
For help finding a church, see Fusion’s student link up
For more information on Christian Unions visit UCCF.org.uk