What is university life like for you? Sports, nights out, lectures, Netflix, more? Believe it or not, university is one of the most open and exciting places for mission that you’ll ever come across. For many, university will be their best opportunity to hear of Christ, experience his love and know his offer of free forgiveness.
But for all the wonderful opportunities, university can be a terrifying place to share your faith. As well as swotting up for essays, learning to cook, picking up new hobbies and discovering how on the earth to use the washing machine, you’re also expected to make a whole group of brand new friends. So how can we share what we believe without ending up loners?
Jesus says, ‘go in to the whole world and make disciples’, but more often fear and uncertainty take over. Yet sharing Jesus at university doesn’t have to make you a social outcast. In fact, making Jesus known can be a real adventure.
A friend once said to me, ‘when you speak the gospel, it’s always to at least two people – the person who’s listening, and you!’ When we share Jesus, we are sharing a best-news-ever invitation to know our Maker, find forgiveness and join his wonderful family. When we wonder whether it’s right to share Jesus, remember that this is the best news we could possibly be sharing. When we worry we’ve wasted a chance to speak of Jesus, know that the message of forgiveness is an offer of forgiveness for us too. When we’re anxious that being public about our faith may cost friendships, remember that Jesus has included you in his family – a family made of many from every nation, tribe and language.
So, equipped with a message of hope for yourself and for the world, here are five tips to get you started:
- Do what you love and take Jesus with you. Fanatical about football, mad about music or fired up for film? Find a university society that does it and join. Whether it’s the Yorkshire Tea Drinking society, an Underwater Hockey club or Ceilidh Dancing evenings, there’s bound to be something for you. And if there really isn’t, start something! Then, start to pray for those you meet. Ask God to help you really love those around you and to give you opportunities to share your faith.
- Explore how Jesus makes a difference to your studies. That can be a shock, especially if we don’t study very hard. But the first chapter of Colossians reminds us that Jesus is Lord over all things, and this includes our studies. In fact, universities began as places to pursue understanding more about God’s world, in worship of Him. Every week you’ll be part of lectures, labs and seminars, so every week you’ll have chances to speak about how Jesus affects that whole world. Prepare by asking yourself: what difference does it make to know that Jesus made and cares for what I study?
- Let your meal table be a place influenced by the gospel. Meal tables are a great opportunity to show practical care, generosity and grace. We can often be busy people living busy lives, but meals are a time when we can slow down. Taking time out of the day to eat with your friends (and others) gives you good time to grow relationships, offer hospitality and talk about things that really matter to you. Make the most of mealtimes as a place where the gospel can be lived out in practical care and love.
- Invite mates to church. Meeting the family is a scary step in any relationship! There are many reasons why we might be slow to invite a friend to church. Maybe we’re worried they’ll think we’re odd, or maybe we’re worried they’ll end up talking to that person. But Ephesians reminds us that the church is the place where the gospel is at work in real-time, transforming and uniting people together. Invite your friends to church and let them see God at work.
- Be a part of your Christian Union. You don’t have to be on mission on your own as a Christian. In fact, in the New Testament, Christians on mission were almost always never on their own. A Christian Union is a community of Christians on mission in the place where they live, socialise and study – their university. You may all be from different churches and different backgrounds, but you can be better together as you work with each other to make Jesus known.