Shining lights amidst our culture

At the Fusion Resonate Day on 3rd December we considered a challenging exercise.  It caused us to ask ourselves how we fare on challenging students to live out lives of faith amidst student culture and how well we support them in that context.  We considered that both of these elements were necessary to see students shine brightly for Christ on university campuses across the UK. 

Here's a summary of the exercise we used to explore this - why not look at this with your team and see what you come up with...

The challenge: We want to see students shining as lights amidst the culture of university life, bringing hope, transformation and salvation.  

Jesus called us to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ and his request to God was ‘not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one’.  Our responsibility as student workers is to help students to live out their lives as Christians amidst the realities of student culture.  However, we also have a strong responsibility to support them in this often challenging environment to see them thrive and live well.

As churches, how do we see students thrive?  How do we both challenge them to live amidst the student culture they’re placed in whilst giving them the support they need to do so wisely?

The exercise:  This is a simple exercise to consider with your team to help you think through how you engage with this tension as a student team/church. 

Consider this axis:

Where we offer lots of support to our students in their discipleship but don’t challenge them to live that out in their context we can find this - lazy, comfortable and/or closeted Christians.  

- These students are confident in their faith but its not being made robust by exercising it in the challenging context of the wider world.  They are also having little impact on the culture or people around them.  They are comfortable in the ‘safe’ Christian environment but are having little impact beyond it.

Where we strongly challenge students to live out lives of faith in the world but offer no support in doing that well we can find this - students who are at risk and/or burnt out. 

- They may be coming under pressure and heavy challenge and trying to carry this weight alone.  Some students' discipleship will suffer for lack of wisdom, support and accountability.  Still others will find that their faith is alive but that they are physically and emotionally burnt out over-doing it and aren’t able to sustain the lifestyle they’re striving for.

The ideal comes where we are able to offer both challenge and support to our students.  Here we see students as shining lights in student culture.  They live amongst those who don’t know Jesus and bring his light into those places.  They are also supported in doing this well and sustainably.  Their faith is made more robust by the challenges they encounter and they bless the world around them by their presence.

The questions:

With your team consider honestly the following questions:

- Where would you put your student work on this graph?  Are you good or poor at challenging your students to live for Jesus amidst student culture?  Are you good or poor at supporting students in those places?

- Where would you plot your students on this graph?  Your leadership isn’t always directly equated to where your students are at.  Who needs more support, who needs more challenge?  Where are the nuances in reality that this exercise highlights?  How can you help your current students be shining lights in their university contexts?

- What do you need to do, going forward?

If you're interested in exploring more questions like this why not join in with a Student Work Local near you.  These are times for student workers to gather locally and learn together how to strengthen their student works.  

If you're interested in encouraging your students to engage in mission check out Living Mission - a great resource packed full of theological context, creative ideas and great insights on the church and student mission. 

Pippa Elmes

Ministry Training Leader

Pippa supports those in church based student ministry to do their job really well. She loves challenging churches to work with students and equipping them to pioneer new mission opportunities to reach students.                     

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