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Opening doors to students 

 
(and what to do when they’re in). Second year student Kira Taylor shares some ideas 



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First years arriving at university at are at crucial point in both their faith and their lives. For most new students, university marks the first steps into the adult world. Normalities like shopping and cooking are completely new and treated with anticipation and a slight amount of fear.

Faith, too, suddenly shifts.

Some Christian students arriving at university have never had to choose a church before. They have always gone to their parents’ church. For me, the idea of choosing a church was terrifying. I’m sure, for some, it was exciting, but I found the sudden loss of my Christian safety net quite distressing.

Part of the problem with finding a new church is that it only happens once a week. By the time most students have settled down into the new system, they may only have been to a couple of churches.

My greatest regret in choosing a church was following advice to choose one quickly. It landed me in a church that didn’t suit me for fear that I couldn’t keep looking. Only in January, did I decide it was time to look again – and it’s a decision I’m very grateful I made.

Coming from a welcoming, loving church back home, any new environment inherently felt hostile to me. Not knowing any faces terrified me. it didn’t feel like church.

There was also the problem that the idea of going anywhere on a Sunday morning from a university campus is almost humourous. Sundays are silent in student villages – the morning to catch up on sleep and recover from Friday and Saturday nights out. The truth is leaving campus on a Sunday (and being awake to do so) is breaking with student convention and an idea someone unconfident in their faith would struggle with.

All of these things are very hard to avoid, but there are ways churches can work around them to make new students feel welcome.

First of all, have a team of welcomers at the front of the church, ready to greet new students. Freshers aren’t hard to spot. They’re the tired-looking, slightly lost faces, looking around for someone to talk to. To be introduced and have someone take an interest is reminiscent of churches back home.

Don’t pressure students to return to your church – it may not be for them – but invite them to join in the church fellowship whether that’s a home group or church lunch. Campuses can become very insular and even just an invitation to something organised in the real world can help a student to feel a little more grounded.

And food really is good and not just because students will take free food anywhere (although we really will). Free food saves energy – and a lot of energy is being expended in the first few weeks, learning about people, places and a brand new social environment.

Alongside this, consider praying for students in your time of prayer. This works on two levels. The first is the spiritual. Students need prayer. It’s a strange, often lonely time, when they know few people, so to know the presence of God is comforting. Secondly, it tells students that you’re in touch with them, that you know it’s hard.

According to a study published by Bloomsbury, far more students self-identify as Christian than go to church or a Christian Union.

Finding a church that fits, both relationally and spiritually, is key for new students.

 

Image | Priscilla Du Preez | Freely



Kira Taylor is a journalism student entering her second year at university. Her home church is South Street Baptist Church in Exeter




 

 



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Baptist Times, 17/09/2018
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