With A level results out and the dust settled from the clouds of Clearing, I presume that by now those starting university next month know where they are going. For most that means moving out of home and into one of the biggest changes in life. What have you heard?
“It is the best 3 years of your life”.
“Uni is the place where you make lifelong friends”
“Get ready to party!”
However, for many Christians we can also hear some other more worrying messages.
“Universities are the home of atheism and are intrinsically anti-Christian”
“Unless you drink and sleep around you won’t get the proper uni experience”
“50% of young Christians lose their faith at university”
These warnings, can force many into a fixed survival mind-set when they start university, leading them to be content with “If I can get through university with my faith in tact then I have done well”. Occasionally this can infect Christian Unions as well, they can become Christian clubs where members live in a bubble together, batten down the hatches, and try to weather the storms and temptations of worldly uni life.
Now whilst I don’t want to completely write off the warnings that you may have heard from friends, parents or youth workers, I do want to challenge this survival mentality.
After all it is hard to imagine a more hostile environment than the early church found itself in after Jesus ascended. Jesus had just been crucified by the authorities and those same authorities were not prepared to let his message continue. They faced constant persecution and the threat of death would have been daily concern for a first century Christian. However, if they had spent their lives huddled up in an upper room, hoping to not lose their faith, then there would be no church today. To the early church, to have a Christian faith meant a growing relationship with God through Jesus and they felt compelled to share this.
Rather than aiming to survive uni, I want to encourage you to aim to thrive!
University is often a time where people can reinvent themselves, maybe shrug off those awkward reputations they got in year 8 and make their own decisions in life. Combine this with the numbers of international students coming from countries where Christianity is almost non-existent and actually your university is an amazing opportunity for mission. You can live as a missionary without even leaving the country, the way you live can shine a light in the darkness, and you may be the only Christian your friends ever know.
I will finish with three tips for you to bear in mind that in my experience will help you and your faith to not only survive but thrive at university.
1. Name drop Jesus from the start
It can be easy to keep your faith hidden with your hall or course mates. However, Fresher’s week is a time where everyone is getting to know everyone so there will be plenty of opportunities to say that you are a Christian. Many students have done this, and in doing so have given other Christians the confidence to reveal themselves. If you check into your halls on the Saturday, why not tell people you are going to find a church for the next morning.
Don’t be weird about it, just be honest where the opportunity arises. After all, if we’re weird or awkward about Jesus, we’re teaching people to be weird or awkward about Jesus.
2. Make finding a church a priority
There will more than likely be several churches around your university, many of them will support students specifically (often through food!). There is no such thing as solo Christianity, and whilst CU’s are brilliant for mission, they are not meant to replace Church. Make an effort to visit some churches in the first few weeks and have it in your mind to commit to a church by November. Before you go, check out the following website which will help you to linkup with student workers (like me!) that are close to your university: http://www.fusion.uk.com/linkup
3. Get out of the Christian bubble
Thriving at uni as a Christian doesn’t happen if you only spend time with Christians, you need to make friends with people who hopefully you will get the chance to introduce to Jesus. Most unis will have more Christians than your youth group at home, and with it comes to opportunity to spend your their time with Christians. Avoiding the bubble doesn’t contradict the need to find Christian community at church, but you need to work out some sort of balance. Maybe join a sports team or a society and pray that God would use in that situation.
For some of you this might mean being involved in your CU and helping it to be focussed on reaching campus with the gospel. UCCF are an organisation that support CU’s throughout the country and they also have a tool to link you up to Christians at your university here as well as giving you a resource for sharing your faith: https://www.uccf.org.uk/starting-uni/link-up