Friday, September 18, 2015

Christian student? Find a church.

I posted this:
Let me explain a bit more.

For a start, whether you're a Christian student or you have other beliefs or are just exploring: find a church. It's a great way to get involved in life in your city and burst the student bubble.

But, if you are a Christian then church is your global family and it's worth getting to know them.

1. Research churches
I went to Uni when the internet was just being born. Today you can know about churches in your student city. Look online. Get a feel for some.

UCCF will help you find your Christian Union who will introduce you to a local church. And Fusion's Student Linkup will help too. There's no lack of information.

Chances are you've never chosen a church before and it can seem a bit overwhelming.
My top tip? Listen to some sermons - particularly from whoever looks like they're the regular preachers. 
Ask yourself: (1) do they talk about Jesus, (2) do they get what they say from the Bible, and (3) when my Uni friends want to come to church (which they will) would they feel welcomed, or is it assumed they're not there? 
Why sermons? (1) That's where you hear the heart-beat of the church, It is.
(2) In the long haul it's the teaching that makes the place. 
The worship might be cool, the coffee might be the best (thankfully ours is great!), and people may or may not be friendly enough to you. But it's The Word of God that is where the life is because the God of the Christian faith is a God who speaks, and the heart of what he speaks about: Christ crucified. Listen for that.
2. Commit soon.
Most student cities have lots of decent churches - students go to a dozen in our city. Please don't visit all of them or it'll be Christmas and you won't have settled anywhere. Give yourself a few weeks to visit a few, then...

a) Join a home group and love people
If you've come from a church back home and been there all your life there are two things that are probably true - firstly, you felt like you knew people, and secondly, it was probably fairly small - the average church only has a around fifty people.

Student city churches - and often those popular with students who can afford to put some staff into student support - tend to be larger. In a large church you're never going to know everyone and you don't actually want to. You need friends outside church. You'll be there half the time and often will sit with people you don't know. Enjoy meeting new people and different people. They're either your brothers and sisters or they're exploring faith - go get to know them!

Be aware that in student cities the population can be quite transient - half of our church have only been with us less than a year. No one really knows anyone. Those who look like they do are faking it. If you surround yourselves with students on a Sunday people will assume you have enough friends. Don't sit back waiting to be talked to by people - go talk to people yourself. Be the grown up!

And, that's where a home group is key. Get in people's lives and homes. You'll be the most flexible and available person, so fit around their lives. Babysit. Clean. Help out. Go shopping with locals. I've seen people do that with my family and it blows me away - they also have a really rich student experience.

Christian growth happens in 'one another' relationships. Don't go it alone. You need other people to knock the edges off you and to spur you on to grow.

b) Get on a rota
Churches take work to run what they do. In our church a Sunday takes 50 people... we suggest people serve one week in four on one team which means 200 people needed to create an envirovment in which people can explore, experience and express God's goodness. And, serving is a great way to grow your character. Plus, when you're on a team you get to know people.

I've seen students serve on every team in church life, and even be humble enough to lead teams.

c) Set up a standing order
That's a bit un-British and I doubt a church will ask you do this when you first visit. But, money reveals the heart... you have a budget (whether you realise it or not) and you will spend all your money one way or another.

You probably don't have lots of money but give from what you have. If you can tithe do - and by 'can' I don't mean you can afford it, but that it'll be sacrificial for you. Giving costs you really good things you wanted to do. Make sure you pay your bills, and live as generously as the grace of God to you. If you think you're stingy, ask for more grace...

And, when you're "paying" for your church you'll value it. That might sound cold, but it's true... and you're a grown-up now so pick up a spade and get stuck in.

And when you commit, and love, and serve and give the strangest thing happens: it becomes your church, and you'll say "We..." rather than "They..." about the good and the bad. Truth be told, Church is annoying and frustrating and painful and "the happiest place on earth."

Update - I was previously responsible for student ministry at Grace Church Exeter where the team will giev you a warm welcome. I'm now a Minister at Beeston Free Church where I'm overseeing student ministry. I hope you'll be warmly welcomed at either of these churches or the countless other churches who care passionately about students - not least because very many of those you'll meet there were once students.

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