Loneliness - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

As the Church in the UK continues to haemorrhage students and young adults it is time to take a fresh look at the five biggest battlegrounds that contest their faith.

If we can identify the battles and prescribe both preventative and remedial action to the massive cultural challenges, rather than just surviving these years we can sow new seeds of revival for the coming decade.

The transition to life at university for Christian school leavers can be seen as an initiation into Christian maturity. Their faith, values and resolve is going to be severely tested. Initiations always involve difficult and hard challenges that need to be overcome in order to prove maturity. Unfortunately these battles aren’t role play, they are real life and the outcomes determine destinies and futures.

I believe the wider church needs to start cheering louder with shouts of encouragement those who are undergoing such an initiation at this time. It is time that the university years become a foundational training ground for Kingdom values and living. It is time to prepare our school leavers like never before. It is time for the haemorrhaging to stop and the tide to turn among this generation.

Whilst there are many life battles to be fought, we will do well to familiarise ourselves with the strategies and counter strategies to fight the five biggest battles Christian students face in twenty first century student culture.

1. Loneliness

Our culture has a loneliness epidemic but this is opposite to how God created us to be. A study on loneliness and isolation in universities found that 17% of students suffered serious self-doubt and isolation, significantly higher than the general population (Woffas, 2002). Unsurprisingly, loneliness is one of the biggest-felt needs at university and many people miss out on the friendships and community they are made for. Everyone’s ‘connected’ on facebook, but that just doesn’t fill our relational needs. It is a horrible feeling to feel wretchedly isolated and awkward in a crowd of students. We are made for interaction, to know deeply and be known intimately.

The reasons for loneliness are varied; being away from friends and family, anxiety about the course, expectations not being met or it may be the first time in years - maybe even since primary school - when you have had to work at making new friends. However, loneliness isn’t the main threat to our faith, it often passes over time, it is what we do to fill the void that can damage us – drink, one night stands, addictive internet behaviour. There is an acute pain to the feeling of loneliness that cries out for comfort. God’s design is that we find our comfort in God and through connection with others.

Advice for youth workers

Friendships are of utmost importance to God. Nearly, every page of Scripture describes some sort of relationship. Cultivating right relationships is God’s number one priority and He desires that our lives should be connected with Him and other people. We are made in the image of a communal God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Being made in His image means that we have a longing for community and inclusion; we’re meant to have mates, it’s the way we’re designed.

We need to prepare school leavers to handle some of the feelings of loneliness, equip them to make new friends and above all value friendship as a gift they have to offer. Loneliness will quickly evaporate as we take an interest in others and regularly extend an arm of friendship.

Advice for churches near universities

Churches need to be prepared to exercise their welcome and hospitality muscles much more vigorously during the Autumn term. Many new students have attributed the support of members of local churches to be the defining factor in them continuing with an active faith at university. With that relational safety net in place new students must be encouraged to pursue making many new friendships with Christians and those who haven’t yet responded to God’s love. Churches and school leavers can communicate to each other even before arrival through the studentlinkup.org service.

Read the other blogs in the series:

Loneliness - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

Alcohol - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

Sex - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

Money - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

Church - A Christian Fresher’s 5 Biggest Battlegrounds

Rich Wilson

Fusion Movement Leader

Rich loves students and God’s church and has championed the important role of local churches in student mission for over 25 years. He wants to invite a generation to A Call Less Ordinary.

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