As the new year looms on the horizon, those of us involved in student work will be planning how we can welcome and reach out to new students. It’s an exciting time - especially when new students who have never been to church rock up. But I often then fall into the trap of not following up how they have been integrated or directed to the opportunities that will help them become, and grow, as a disciple. We can easily rest on the fact we’ve seen new faces and be passive about how we’re pushing them closer to Jesus. Our challenge is to make sure when students come to church they don’t just get stuck in the rhythm of occasional attendance.
I was in Lincoln earlier this year and heard this story from St Swithin’s. Lauren Herbert, the students intern, told me about the Masquerade Ball they had held:
“Hosting the masquerade ball in our church was an amazing opportunity to see new people come through the doors, and to see our existing 18-25s community inviting their friends to come and see that church isn’t boring, it isn’t outdated, and it’s for everyone! We had just under 150 people turn up, dressed to impress and ready to enjoy a 3 course meal, dance to an insanely talented function band and leave with a personal invitation to come along to our Alpha course the following week. For some, it was the nudge they needed to accept a friend’s previous invitation to alpha, for others it was an easy way to make that invitation for the first time, and for the rest seeds were planted which have allowed the conversation of Alpha, church and faith to happen organically.”
Whilst the team at St Swithin’s put on an amazing event that blessed students in Lincoln and made church welcoming, but they also intentionally made sure they invited people to do Alpha. Many of the students who attended the Ball did so, and there are now plans to launch new student small groups off the back of the course. The Ball wasn’t the culmination of several students’ experience of church, but rather the beginning.
Matt Rodgers is the Curate at St Swithin’s and said "as a student team, one of our roles is to create spaces and opportunities that enable students to extend an invite or open up a conversation about church, community and ultimately the difference that Jesus makes. Our part of the deal is to do the best we can to resource, equip and coach students, and they in turn proactively jump at the opportunity to invite those they encounter in their everyday settings."
Not all of us are going to host a Masquerade Ball, but whether it’s large or small scale, we need to be both creative and strategic, not just with how we’re making it easy for students to come to church for the first time, but with the opportunities we are creating for them to go deeper in faith.
What are we doing to nudge students who are trying church to come closer to Jesus?
Here at Fusion we love to celebrate what God is doing across the country with students and churches. If you’ve got a student mission story share it with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org