I’m Funmi and I work for Fusion as a student mission developer and in my local church as a student community builder, pioneering the student work there. As a church community, we are passionate about providing support to students during their time at university, whether they’re apathetic to faith, spiritually curious or all in with Jesus. We want to practically meet the spiritual and emotional needs of students and find creative ways to share God’s love with them.
During the pandemic, we were saddened by the increasing reports of students facing mental health issues and wanted to do something about it. We made up 100 well-being packs full of self care treats, encouragement, emotional well-being tips and practical information on how to get support at this time. Students could request a well-being pack, order one for a friend or we would distribute them on campus and knock on student houses.
Through this, we had incredible conversations with students, got to pray with students for the first time and give them a positive experience of the Christian community. It was a tangible way to sow seeds of good news and share God’s care for them.
Off the back of several conversations with students, we found that many final years were disappointed with the lack of celebration to help them finish uni well. We wanted to do something about this and so we partnered with another local church in the City to host a graduation celebration in the park. We popped up a table in a park, put up graduation themed decorations, served Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Prosecco, gave out polaroid photos and made 100 graduation gifts to give away. We did this twice for both universities and got to bless students by showing up and celebrating them, honouring their time in Oxford and sending them off well with gifts and prayers.
Before this, we connected through instagram with an Oxford Brookes student who isn’t a Christian or part of a local church, as she heard about the well-being packs through the pole fitness society sharing our post inviting to students to order one. It has been so wonderful getting to know her this last year and so I asked her to share her experience of the well-being packs and graduation celebration and this is what she said:
“The well-being packs were so much more than the items within; the heartfelt card and time put into them gave my housemates and I reassurance that our struggles were seen and heard. They gave us the hope and power to keep going whilst putting our well-being first.
The graduation celebration meant the world to my friends and I. Having spent half of our degrees locked inside completing the most difficult assignments we had faced, graduation was something we had looked forward to; the culmination of three intense years of dedication. But that was not the reality, and the university did nothing to acknowledge our achievement until months later.
To have someone recognise how hard we had worked and help us celebrate meant everything. We were not just having a little party, we were being acknowledged and uplifted in a way we could never have imagined. It really meant the world.
We are all so incredibly grateful to Hope Vineyard, Oxford for the genuine love and care poured into their work over the past months, and feel safer in the knowledge they are there to uplift those who come after us.”
This is our prayer, that the church would see and hear students and give them the opportunity to encounter God’s love and hope. As a local church community, we can't support every student, but with every church playing their part, together we can.
What ideas do you have to support students spiritually and emotionally this year?