Week 15 - Bringing the AWE of God Back to University

This term the Student community at Vinelife Church in Manchester has set out to bring the awe of God back to University. Taking inspiration from Habakkuk 2:14, they have sought for students in Manchester to be ‘filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord’ by creating spaces where they can encounter Him, ask big questions, build community, and encounter worship and prayer.

With this vision, and with support from funding via Just Sow, the team at Vinelife launched AWE in November (Alpha – Worship – Evangelism). This saw them seek to reach and connect with students in a number of bold ways. They have done loads of street interviews with students on their way to and from campus, asking them great questions about their beliefs before posting these on social media for people to engage with. The team has also been regularly prayer walking and flyering on campus, offering to share the gospel with people on the street, and holding pop-up worship sessions on the busy Oxford Road. The desire has also been to host Alpha style events on Monday nights at a bar in the heart of Fallowfield where many of the students live, inviting along those people they have connected with.  

By committing themselves to regularly being out on campus, embracing mission and prayer, the team at Vinelife have had loads of brilliant conversations about faith, got to pray with a number of students, and formed great connections with people. Off the back of their street interviews, their Instagram page has seen a noticeable increase in followers who aren’t Christians and is becoming a platform where they are continuing to engage with faith. After being interviewed, one student decided to get herself a Bible before meeting one of the team for coffee. One student came along to a Monday night after connecting with the team at the first Worship session they held, and another student has attended some carol services at local churches after also meeting the team whilst they worshipped on Oxford Road.

That’s not to say AWE has panned out exactly the way they expected it to. Karim, part of the AWE team, says that although they extended a load of invites (including 1000 flyers!) the numbers of people they were praying would turn up for the Alpha events didn’t necessarily materialise. However, that’s not to say there hasn’t been any fruit.

"Although we didn’t get the numbers we were expecting, or end up running the Monday events in the way we were initially planning to, it’s been clear that the students who are coming are looking for a space where they can ask questions and build deeper relationships. So it’s been cool to host a space which focuses on that more, which is actually allowing both Christians and those who aren’t to be in an environment in which they are comfortable having deep conversations. We recently ran a Christmas quiz at the bar, and four people who aren’t in church came, including two who we hadn’t even met on campus. What’s more, we seem to have real favour with the owner of the bar we are meeting in, and he’s happy for us to keep using the space next term! So what was originally planned to be a few nights is instead becoming a community for searchers right where the students are!”

The fruit has not just been with those they are hoping to reach, but within the student team itself: “by committing to being at the Monday Night spaces and out on campus regularly, whether that be praying, worshipping or sharing the gospel, as a team our heart for evangelism is growing. Where what we set out to do was initially quite scary and outside of people’s comfort zones, it’s been amazing to see students become way more missional themselves. It’s also really encouraged us that even if you don’t hit a home run every time, or things don’t go according to plan, God is still working. In what you’re doing I guess you just have to be willing to hone it, try again and go again and you will start to see the fruit.”

Every week of the academic year, we are sharing a story of student mission. If you have a story to share, let us know.

Ed Earnshaw

Student Mission Coach

Ed’s faith came alive at uni and he loves seeing students grow in boldness and faith. He believes students who have found hope in Jesus can change their campuses and cities, and this is why he is excited that he gets to coach churches and students to embrace lives of mission. 

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