Reuben leads the student work at HT Weston. He’s passionate, a visionary and has given student work a crack this year for the first time. God has moved amongst students in Weston through his work, here’s his story and some of what he’s learned on the way.
During my year as a ministry intern at Holy Trinity Church (HT), I was given the freedom to start a new ministry to the students in the town. At first, the responsibility seemed daunting, especially after having seen the number of students coming through Freshers Fair. My initial plan was to hand out tins of Baked beans with our Church information on it and then inviting them to a pizza evening. So, with trepidation, pizzas were bought, the church was decorated with fairy lights and the music was playing. Unfortunately, and to my surprise, not one student turned up. I had been expecting at least a few, but there was no one.
Driving home that night, after taking the pizzas to the halls of residence, I felt discouraged. It was on the journey home that I clearly heard Jesus say ‘When did I ever say to wait for people to come to you to hear the good news. Instead it says GO into all nations, not stay.’ From this moment, my focus changed. My thoughts were now how I was going to bring the students (all of which were unsaved), into Church. There was no Christian union at the University campus that I could ask for help in promoting events. This was when my thinking was challenged. We are the Church; the Church must go to lost. I then began serving the local halls of residence by bringing home cooked meals, pizzas and donuts on a regular basis.
In the April of 2018 we started to host a film night and a meal on alternate weeks. At one point 20 students were attending these evenings. I put together a team of people from HT who wanted to serve students and who would interact and engage the students effectively. Towards the end of the academic year, the students suggested putting on a fundraiser event for the Church. As the students from the nearby Halls were studying Performing Arts, they were keen to host an evening of songs from the musicals. That evening we had 80 people from HT and 30 students support the event. A cake sale and auction raised £340 for the Church. The students were amazed that they had raised that amount. They shared photos on social media of the evening and were talking about it for some time after. They were grateful that HT had provide a space for where they could express their gifts and talents and in doing so the Church began to build a relationship with them.
This past academic year has been difficult. Most of the students moved to shared houses near the college. This meant that they no longer felt they needed the space the church provided and therefore no-longer wanted to interact with the Church. In essence, I had to start again from scratch. I have learned to be resilient and adaptable. Finding out what doesn’t work well is just as effective as knowing what works to engage the student community.
I have been journeying with a student from the original group, for the past two years and have recently had the opportunity to share the gospel with him. I am now praying that he will in time, accept Christ. He is lonely and often asks if I will walk along the beach with him and so I have met him at his place of need rather than expecting him to be where I am.
My challenge to anyone wanting to start a student ministry is just to give it a go. Food and fellowship will always work well for students. If nobody shows up, then you persist and keep trying to make inroads with the students in your community. Students living away from home, want to feel accepted, loved and valued. Be the hands and feet of Jesus and show His love whenever you can.