If, like me, you were raised in a Christian household, it’s highly likely you don’t remember the first time you stepped into a church.
But for thousands of students across the UK, it is the case that the first time they set foot into one of our buildings will be the first time they have ever been in a place of worship.
We can all agree that we want to welcome university students into our churches really well, so it’s important that we know what to do when they turn up unexpectedly!
A lot of first-time church-goers will be present as a result of an invite from a friend, but there will be other students who just seem to find their own way through the doors.
One church where students have been Googling their way into the pews by searching “church” is St Peter’s Brighton.
Myself and Ben caught up with their Nakita (student worker) and Rachel (student) on a recent edition of the Fusion podcast, and they regaled us with tales of students who had wandered in on a whim.
“Every time I’m about to lead a service on Sunday or host an event and you’re thinking to yourself ‘I wonder who will turn up?’, I’m always blown away by the people that do turn up who have no connection to the church.”
She went on to expand with the story of one girl who found a church community almost by mistake in her first term at uni:
“She arrived at church without any real church background, but stumbled across a church and freshers’ fayre, found herself making friends with lots of Christians, and was then ‘in’.”
There’s a lot that we can do as church leaders and students already in church to help these students find their place in church.
Rachel offered this:
“I trust that the Lord won’t miss out on anyone he wants. He’s on their cases, and moving in their lives… God’s probably already on their case, and I want to connect with them and show some of the family that church provides.”
With students seeking sanctuary and community this academic year, how can you make sure your church is ready to receive and welcome those who are wandering in?
For tips on how to do this well, listen to the full Fusion Podcast episode with Nakita and Rachel here.