For a Christian, being fully integrated in to the church family is a lifelong commitment. The university years are not a season for time out, rather an opportunity to move from being a youth to an adult in the church family. It is not about just hanging out with people your own age but embracing the generations and taking responsibility for pioneering the church forward. The local church is the place of teaching and discipleship and it is also the launch pad for mission and maturity. The words of Bill Hybels that have resonated deeply across all denominations and nations are ‘the local church is the hope of the world’. If we are to get specific we must also conclude that ‘the local church is the hope of the student world’.
Why is such hope found in local church for students?
The main reason is that the local church testifies to and reveals Jesus and the hope he offers (Ephesians 3:10). Students are baptised into that hope and take bread and wine regularly as part of church life to remember this hope defines identity and creates purpose.
Your local church teaching and discipleship should validate, affirm and strengthen your identity in Christ. Local church student small groups are available for students to lead and be a part of. These are great opportunities to learn more about the Bible, draw close to God and to serve those in our communities. They can often be good places to invite friends to, to give them space to ask questions and meet others from your church family. Committing to a small group at church is a great way to get stuck in.
Serving and Leadership opportunities
The local church should produce the very best leaders mainly because we have the very best role model in Jesus Christ. Indeed we have been given leadership gifts (Ephesians 4:11). Students have opportunities to serve and lead under seasoned leaders in the local church and to be mentored by leaders who are leading in the different sectors of society. This leadership development and coaching can then be applied to being a course rep, hall or SU committee member, leading a club or society, as well as leadership in local church. Look out for opportunities to serve, be mentored and to get involved in leading in areas of church life you’re passionate about.
Mission flows out of encountering the abundant and transformational love of God (Ephesians 3:14-21). It is this very same love that compels Christian students to prioritise time and energy with those who haven’t yet encountered or embraced God’s love. When the church is working well it gathers for fellowship, worship, teaching and prayer in large and small settings and then scatters for the majority of the week into various workplaces, schools and universities. It scatters with intent. Christians in ones, twos and small groups revealing the love of God. Through the depth of relationships formed during the week it makes it easier for a friend to journey with you to Alpha, a cell/small group or a Church event or gathering.
Make Choices and Commitments
Never has a student generation had so many choices and so much to consume. Part of growing up is making choices and living with the consequences. Christian students need to make a choice about how they are going to live at university and who they are going to live for. They need to make choices that prioritise what they really value and to ensure they give their best to doing those things well.
When Christian students value local church family, prioritise it and commit to being a full and active member, they will find spiritual Mothers and Fathers, support and encouragement for living missionally, discipleship, teaching and pastoral care. When part of a strong local church you can live courageously in the student world, joining the different clubs and societies, hall commitees, SU commitees etc.
With students at the heart of local church and local church at the heart of student mission, the generations can work together and support each other. The church needs students as much as students need church and it is time for students to pioneer the church forward as they commit to being full members of the family.