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Effective engagement on campus?

Dan Denk of IVCF (IFES in the USA):

Campus engagement is based on the development of InterVarsity witnessing communities (working in cooperation with other Christian groups on campus) that are of sufficient size and quality to effectively pursue the following aims:
  • Evangelism: saturating the campus with the gospel so that everyone has been confronted with the claims of Jesus Christ in word and deed and in a manner which encourages response. This usually requires a 1:10 ratio; that is, 10% of the campus being witnessing Christians (Matt 28:16‑20).
  • Engaging particular groups: making the gospel known in each of the geographical sectors of the campus, each residence hall, each special interest group, each ethnic group, each club and fraternity, each academic major and department; including faculty, staff, and administration (I Cor. 9:19‑23).
  • Engaging the college/university structure: bringing God's truth and justice to bear on the campus newspaper, student government, campus radio station, residence hall staff, special activities and events, administration policy, dispersion of funds, and the sports program (Amos 5:7‑24).
  • Challenging personal and public morality: proclaiming and demonstrating a Christian perspective on issues addressing the university community related to personal morality (homosexuality, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, cheating) and public morality (racism, war, economic policy, world hunger, materialism). (Micah 3:9‑11, 7:1‑7)
  • Engaging the marketplace of ideas: seeking to integrate Christian thought with the intellectual issues discussed in the university setting (scientific research, the arts, politically correct thinking, ecology, economic theory). (Acts 17:22‑34, Dan. 1)
It's immediately obvious that we're in a different context in the UK. The idea of 1 in 10 students being Christians is hard to imagine, we might just be making 1 in 100 at best.

That said, where could we engage more effectively? How do you make a noticeable impact with so few? What more can be done on a relationship level? What more can be done on the other fronts?

What could our pursuit of developing witnessing communities (Christian Unions) learn from the priorities Dan Denk asserts, and from others worldwide? Where are things working well? What are the encouraging stories? What are the challenges we face?


  1. That 1:10 made me gawk and want to cry - if effective evangelism were to depend on that, we're lost to start with! I've just worked out, in Belgium's main francophone uni it's approx 1:2000. Britain's not that bad, Dave: in the traditional unis, Warwick's around 1:70, Reading's probably around the same? The newer unis - well NTU would be around 1:370... Thankfully it doesn't depend on that. High aims are good, but if some smaller groups were to see those aims, it would be so daunting it would depress/cripple them, not motivate them.

    Those stats would call us to consider different things for different types of university in the UK.

    Some of it can be developed in communication. If all that's talked about in CU inc cells is fellowship, quiet times and evangelistic events then that's all that will be done. If the SU paper, clubs & socs, politics, the arts and degree courses are talked about in the CU meetings, and the gospel applied, then the students will be equipped to be involved in those, applying the gospel as they are.

    Of course, providing and plugging appropriate books can help as well!

    I seem to be saying that the CU students need to be being transformed in these areas by the gospel-renewing of their minds so they can be having an effect on student society. If they're to proclaim Christ's lordship over every inch of the student world, they've gotta know what it means for Christ to be Lord over a given square inch, so that must be addressed in CU programme.

    You've asked a list of v good questions and this comment is only a dipping-the-toe-in-the-water comment... I'm v interested in others' comments.

  2. When I read this, my mind began to wonder ... can this be translated to communities (towns and cities).

    But then churches would have to work together, I guess. And who ever heard of that.

  3. "If they're to proclaim Christ's lordship over every inch of the student world, they've gotta know what it means for Christ to be Lord over a given square inch, so that must be addressed in CU programme."
    -- étrangère

    Sadly, this position I've found to be a bit too controversial among some quarters within my CU (NUCU). The argument is raised that the CU should just be for mission and discipleship for the local church. Whilst I do agree with you, sadly I've seen that this conflict does come up frequently.

    As for how you make an impact with so few? Make yourselves heard. Having spent some time with the Nottingham Trent guys, I'm frequently amazed by how with their small numbers they're able to reach out. One good example I heard about, was when they gave out free hot-chocolate and water to folks after a night out. That's an excellent way of showing people that you care, that you're doing something different. It's unexpected and it stays with people. In fact if I remember rightly, one of the people who received hot chocolate eventually went on to become a Christian.

    Another thing which Trent has planned for the new academic year, is to try and leave packs in every hall of residence room. Again, this just raises awareness.

    On a relationship level, I'm not really sure what can be done though.

  4. Gareth,

    There is something of a tension in the "what should CU teach" issue - I have a blogpost saved as a draft to explore that....

    I guess its seeing that this isn't a competition between involvement in CU and the local church - the two overlap considerably... and ultimately share something of a common aim... all sides are too often territorial in such matters rather than running hard together...

  5. Well I look forward to that post!

    And yes I do agree, that sometimes it feels a lot like territory grabbing. Fusion being on the scene can sometimes hinder as well. It's frustrating and it shouldn't be that way.

  6. Gareth, NUCU aren't as naïvely black & white on evangelism/discipleship as you give impression - what's the Pure course?! What's 9:20? What about the faculty groups? Some of these may have an evangelistic emphasis, seeing as that's what local church can't do on campus except through you guys, but they aren't ignoring examining what Christ's lordship in these areas means. Certainly not when I was chatting with folk about Pure, helping 9:20 leaders, and discussing about philosophy with some CU members who studied it.

    Trouble is, when people take that idea you quoted of me, and instead of examining Christ's lordship in a given area to equip us for serving him in that area and addressing that in evangelism, they make it an excuse for CU to spend its energies doing whatever peripheral thing each member fancies. I think that's what NUCU leadership try to avoid with their focussed communication about the aim of the CU. They're also trying to avoid students treating CU as their church, where local churches are better placed for all age & background gospel community inc authority and discipleship.

    Ah, it can be tricky!

    PS I too love NTU and what they've started doing evangelistically in the past couple of years :)

  7. I think the vision has a serious flaw, the word effective. How do you measure effectiveness in the Christian world? In business, its sales, market share etc. But as christians does the CU number doubling in attendance mean what we do is effective?

    How do we measure this? This is the flaw of the statement. It implies that we all know what success is, when we can hardly say that we all think the same way.

    Does it mean numbers or Christian maturity, or depth of discipleship of the new believers or how many missionaries this goes on to produce?

    When we debate such statements I wonder how we can honestly say one vision is better than another except on theological grounds, because the success we are aimimg for is hard to measure, and what we think we should measure is not always(if ever) agreed upon.

  8. étrangère - I had written a slightly longer response. But it's disappeared!

    I wasn't trying to say that it is that black and white in NUCU. I was just trying to say that there exist a significant minority in NUCU who tend to disagree (at least in principle) with things such as Pure and Nine20 groups.

    (And I think i've just clicked as to who you are - IFES Belgium. I'm quite convinced I had one of your prayer letters knocking around at some point!)

  9. Sean, you raise a good point - how can we evaluate things?

    I'm convinced we need to be Theologically-driven rather than Pragmatically-driven. That should actually make our methods very flexible, its just that "what works" isn't the key.

    However, I would expect that what is theologically-sound ought to produce life-change in people... whether hardening or reviving people... God's powerful word makes things happen!

    On being driven by Theology vs Pragmatics:
    If you have an hour and broadband have a listen to Chan Kilgore on Jesus-centred Reformed Theology, he's part of Acts 29, the Mark Driscoll end of emerging church.

  10. Amen Dave, real change should be the result of good theology.

    But, my point isn't that we dont look at something and say I am not going to assess this, cos I can't, but that we assess on things we can assess.
    e.g. - The doctrinal vision of the ministry, the commitment of the workers(UCCF Staff in this case) to their jobs, are CU's running in the way we envision them to run are they running on core principals and not secondary issues etc

    These things are all easily(to a degree) easily measured. They are all ways of looking at what we do, and why we do it instead of looking to see if we can judge a ministry on the bottom line output.

    I havent researched it but I am pretty sure Paul, doesnt berate churchs for not getting people in or having big numbers or for not getting enough pledge cards signed, but berates them for their wrong motives, the lack of theological soundness in what they teach, in the way they care for people etc. It seems the assesment should always lieon what we do and why and the "success" of all this is up to God and his grace.

  11. Gareth, you're right, a significant minority. And you're right, I have just been with IFES in Belgium - encouraging to hear my prayer letters got round! I did Relay in Nottingham the previous year.


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