These are indeed very strange days. Toilet paper is short, pasta is but a memory, and millions and millions of people around the world are confined to their homes.
It’s curious - I’m told we are social distancing, and yet, this week I have had people from all over the UK pop up on my computer screen for a chat. I’ve never been so connected!
I’m sure that many of you will be in the same position. However, it’s important to remember that many will be trapped, lonely, and fearful of how the coronavirus pandemic will impact both their lives and the lives of those they love.
Whilst much of the attention will rightly be spent on the most vulnerable in our society, there are many university students who will be stuck in isolation in the wrong city, and even the wrong country.
The role of the church in reaching these students has never been more apparent.
Even if your church has never worked with students before, you have the most incredible opportunity to meet the stranded when they need it most.
It’s important to establish just how your church can help students, so here are some ideas!
For those students who are self-isolating, you could provide shopping, medication, and even - that rarest of commodities - toilet paper! Community and companionship is also something that could be at the forefront of what students need right now, and your church could be well placed to offer it.
Even the offer of a phone call or a Facetime (other video calling services are available) could go such a long way to helping these students realise they aren’t alone. Is there someone in your church who would be up for spending half an hour on the phone chatting to a student they’ve never met before?
How can you get the message out? Could you make a small flyer with your information on it and drop it through doors in halls of residence, or in a load of houses in what you know to be a particularly student-y area? Could you offer assistance to the University welfare department or the chaplaincy? Can you ask your current students to pass info on to their friends who might be in need?
The reach of your church can go way beyond this practical assistance, however.
If you do have a number of students in your church, how can you help them to keep up a good routine and not fall into bad habits? If you have a small group, have you thought about carrying on conducting meetings over Skype (or the video calling service of your choice)? If you don’t have a small group, what an amazing time this could be to start one!
Fusion’s ‘Small Groups, Big Mission’ resource is an amazing way to start thinking about why small groups can be transformational for university students, and we have adapted our training to serve the church for this transition to the online world.
Online training will be running regularly to equip anyone with a vested interest in small groups. Click here to find out more and sign up!
Beyond small groups, if your ministry has an active social media presence (or even if it doesn’t, now is the time to start!) how could you engage your students that way? Recorded devotionals, artistic verses, book clubs, worship sessions, online sermons - there are so many options. Find a routine and stick to it! Make sure you encourage healthy patterns for people who are stuck inside all day - exercise, screen time, and anything else you can think of.
Let a message of combating fear underpin everything that you do in this new and challenging season.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.