Thursday, February 06, 2014

Seven no-brainer moments for a CU in the University year

Christian Unions exist to give every student at their University the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus. Exactly how they do that it's hugely flexible and open to amazing creativity... but the context of the student world and the calender offer up some great opportunities that shouldn't be missed. Cut your cloth to fit the resources and people you have and the context you're in... be aware of where people are...

1. Freshers Week
A massive event at the start of the year when people are trying to work things out. Some times it seems possible to hit the major life questions... but it can be just as good to just be there. To be the people who think it's good to ask honest questions and want honest answers. Be the people who want make the most of the University experience, be people who embrace its opportunities, who draw some ethical lines for themselves without judging others for theirs, who pour themselves out for others. The last thing Christians need to do in Freshers Week is to hide away with lots of other Christians. There's all kinds of wrong going on when Christians clique.

Freshers week is also the opportunity to kick of an excellent Church Search programme to help students find their way into the local church community, to integrate into the life of their city as thousands benefit from every year nationally. Liase with churches months earlier to enable people to find a family fast.

Don't blow it with...
1. An exclusive in/out tone from the mic or in converasation... CU exists for everyone. The word "We" refers to any student at the Uni not any particular tribe of Christians. Create a context where all people can freely explore... where it's safe to do that. 
2. A dodgy hoodie/publicity etc. A Bible verse on a hoodie is not good communication or theology. Try to avoid naff jargon too. If you use slogans for a series of event keep your audience in mind. If you have a CU hoodie make it a whole  year thing that reflects a sense of intense curiosity and the value of all people and every thing. If you don't have the skills for good design and language then get help from somewhere rather than doing it badly. 

2. Halloween
Pete Dray's work on God Loves Halloween is outstanding as is Glen Scrivener's poetry Trick or Treat. Dig into them and see what you could to seize the opportunity of this ever increasing occasion around which there is much confusion. Creating a sub-culture alternative is best avoided... and just ignoring something that's significant for people seems a shame. Be aware of other cultural and religious events in the year - engage respectfully and servant-heartedly.

3. Christmas
At Christmas everyone wants a sense of traditional festivity.  A Carol Service, with all the traditional carols and readings, mince pies, a traditional venue etc. Think big - Exeter CU weren't filling the hall they used but two faith-filled students booked the football ground (this breaks the 'traditional' venue rule but the location works in Exeter)... A decade later 200 Christian students invite more than ten friends each and a great crowd gathers. If an Events Week fits in your year - use the speaker for this too. Invite the gospel choir, a brass band, the SU president to do a reading, involve people. Held a few days after the Exeter Carol Service is Exeter's massive Safer S ex Ball. It's great for the Christians to get out and help people make it safely home. Distinctive and yet dying to self in the cold and wet to serve people. 

4. Valentines
A tricky one - doing something on the evening of Feb 14th isn't easy but when love is in the air there are opportunities in the surrounding days. The way Christians conduct relationships should stand out all year round and Valentines can be an opportunity to ask some big questions about love and that's central gospel ground.

A Spring events week is probably fairly near to this date... An opportunity to invite friends, but also to raise a flag and get beyond existing friendship circles... clear talk of Jesus... thoughtful engagement with real questions in safe environments... space for real creativity - loved the look of the 1920s Jazz Cafe in London and an exploration of the roots of Jazz....   use food and film... enjoy life and culture, music, art. It also makes sense that Christians would be engaged in the life of the University and the Students Union - leading other societies... running in Sabbs elections. Embracing academia, politics...  You can't just start that in the Spring - authentic involvement in our culture is an all year thing.

5. Easter?
Christians understandably want to make the most of this but it lacks the impact on our culture that Christmas has. Plus in the student world its usually out of term time. You might be able to make use of it but you might not.

6. People
Nothing gives better opportunity for the gospel than being with people, enjoying life deeply and developing a listening ear, being the kind of person people want to share their life with. Interested people are interesting. Be a dinner party host. Be a person who is there for people all year round. Don't just live with Christians... don't create a sub-culture, shine at the heart of student life. And any one can lead an Uncover 'seeker study' to give those they know the opportunity, in the middle of life and the middle of questions, to see for themselves who Jesus is.

7. And...

[Photo from Royal Holloway Christian Union]

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