Friday, September 11, 2015
The student experience can be amazing
This weekend thousands of students arrive in Exeter. Fifty of them did a Student Linkup over the summer at a Christian festival to get connected to church... I imagine a similar number have connected with the Christian Union (with a significant overlap between them).
Scare statistics abound but there's no need for a Christian student to be afraid of the University experience. There's no need for anyone to be afraid of it.
For years I worked with The Christian Unions. Amazing bands of brothers and sisters who love Jesus and want to know more about him and give other students the opportunity to explore his claims. Sometimes they're geeky, sometimes they're not - but they're made up of students who what do you expect. Sometimes they swing one way on the church spectrum, sometimes the other, but they love Jesus and that's what matters.
And then there are churches - to turn to my current working context. In every University town or city there are good churches today - evangelical communities, people who love Jesus and are figuring out what it means to follow him alongside people who are figuring out whether they want to follow him. Most who arrive at Jesus have never had to choose a church before - it's a weird luxury.
Ask yourself - do they love Jesus, and could I bring my mates here to explore faith with me? If yes, join. Get to know some people.
At University I met people who thought differently to me. I'd grown up not following Jesus and among the Christians I met I found people who were more thoughtful, who had more experience of life than me, among those who weren't I also found people more thoughtful than me with more experience of life. I loved the opportunity to live day in day out with others, to share life and work and play together.
At University I've seen people begin to follow Jesus and see the direction of their life change.
At University I've seen people catch a vision for what they can do in this world.
At University I've seen children become adults.
At University I've seen people mess up and find grace.
At University I've seen people learn to look at the world differently.
At University that was me, and many others.
Yes, sometimes its hard - though remembering to sleep when its dark and work when its not, to do your washing, to eat fruit and veg and do some exercise really does deal with a lot of the challenges - if you can make a few friends to share the journey with.
Sometimes people forget to be in the city they're in. The student experience can be a bubble that's hard to break out of. It's one of the great things about church - you can go and sit on the sofa of a family in the city... meet the locals.
Also, there's all the local life to enjoy. Where we are that means beaches and Dartmoor, and the crazy Ottery Tar Barrels to name a few things. Enjoy the summers and winters of 2016, 2017, 2018...
When you mess up - get help.
Sometimes it'll feel lonely - so invest early on in friendship.
Enjoy your course - its your job, it's good for you to work.
Ask hard questions of yourself. Why do I care about what I care about?
One last thought - the student community is a peer led community... you can bow to peer pressure like most people do, but you don't have to. And generally, if you know who you are and what you're about you'll be streets ahead of other people and gain their respect rather than their rejection.
And if you're not sure what you're about (which most of us rarely are)- the Christian Union and the local church would love to walk with you, not feeding you pat answers, but pursuing honest answers to honest questions.
Image: Exeter Med School.