Week 42 - Rejection Therapy

Josh is a Student in Oxford. This is how he and other students at St Aldates have been learning how to step outside their comfort zone this year when it comes to mission…

Two of the things that can stop us from doing anything in life is the fear of failure, and the fear of rejection. What if I mess up? What if the answer is no? What if others’ opinions of me change? These paralysing thoughts can apply to all things in life, and get in the way of us trying stuff where we aren’t sure how things will play out – not least when it comes to sharing our faith.

At St Aldates, we wanted a fun way to challenge this anxiety that arises when stepping out of our comfort zone, and so we set out to undertake a variety of challenges with some of the students. Ventures included challenging strangers to a race, asking KFC if they could cook our own chicken, asking a barber if we could give him a skin fade (my personal favourite!), and many more challenges that we were expecting a bunch of rejections from, but had the potential to lead to great moments if our question was met with a yes!

Each challenge had varying levels of success, but through all of them we found that the toughest thing was always pushing through the internal barrier of social awkwardness we felt in asking a question that we were probably expecting a negative response to. We found that there was a natural resistance within us when putting ourselves in positions where we might be rejected – there’s almost a vulnerability to stepping out of the sphere of the socially expected and asking random people questions as silly as ‘can you teach me some dance moves?’

Despite this, we found that people’s reactions were much more positive than we initially expected – for example one of the challenges was to ask random people for £100 pounds (surely everyone says no to that request?!) – but after only 6 rejections, we were met with a yes. Completely taken aback, our student pastor Jodie realised that she had to follow through and accept the money – which she hadn’t planned for at all!

So there are three key things that we’d learnt from this ‘rejection therapy’ – that people are kinder than we were expecting them to be, that the fear of rejection is much worse than the actual feeling of being rejected, and that when there’s an opportunity for rejection, there’s also usually opportunity for a positive response! With this in mind, we must always be prepared for what to do if the answer is a yes - even when we might be expecting the opposite.

After ‘warming up’ with the more silly challenges and taking what we had learned, we decided that if we could get over the rejection we’d experienced so far, why not step out for our faith by asking people if they wanted prayer for anything, would like to try church, or wanted to chat about Jesus? It was amazing to see people’s responses, and whilst there were still many rejections (we were getting used to this by now!) the conversations some of those initial questions prompted were so encouraging.

We ended up praying for people, exchanging numbers with others who wanted to try church, and giving Bibles to those that were keen to explore more. If the only downside to initiating these conversations were some rejections, then wasn’t it worth it, and shouldn’t we step out more?

We’ve loved recording all the videos, and our hope is that in putting them online others might have a laugh, but also be emboldened to step out and take a risk – despite the fear of rejection! Why not take the challenge and step out in faith? Invite that friend to church, offer prayer to new people, or ask that question about faith. Rejection and failure are much less painful than we imagine them to be, and one potential act of boldness could lead to something incredible! If you want to check out our Rejection Therapy videos then you can follow us on @aldatesstudents.

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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