University. It can conjure up a multitude of different thoughts and emotions. New friendships and opportunities. Parties and freedom. Lectures. All-nighters even. But how does being a Christian ground you as a student?
Don’t forget to take your identity with you
I was very nervous the night before moving into halls. Yet at that very moment, I was hidden with Christ, by the right hand of God, receiving the eternal, beautiful and enduring love of the Father to his Son (Col 3:1-3). You couldn’t get more secure! It’s like living in Buckingham Palace with the entire Army surrounding its walls, the entire RAF covering the airways and the entire Police covering the surrounding 100 square miles of London. But I’d somewhat forgotten about this reality. I wasn’t looking up (Col 3:1). In the frantic days before and during the start of university, remember and enjoy the vast armies of security you have in Christ. If you’re ever tempted to feel self-conscious, worried about work or making friends, look up.
Don’t hide Jesus away
Starting uni, some of the best advice I ever got was this: “Be open about your faith from day one.” How? Try to go to a church (for advice on settling in one, see here) on the first Sunday, and tell people where you went when they ask. It’s dangerous to hide your faith, because you’ll be tempted to keep hiding it, making it harder to live openly as a Christian. Besides, the person you’re talking to might be a Christian too and in need of a church!
Do meet one to one
At Globe we long to be relational and discipling, in fact they are two of our church values. Meeting one to one with someone, once settled at a church, to read the Bible and share life, anxieties, joys, and disappointments over a coffee personifies those two values. You develop a relationship built around Christ and his word, which is powerful; my best friends at church during university were people I’d done this with. You may feel awkward at first, it might be entirely new, and you might not even naturally get on with this person (perhaps someone at a more mature stage of faith), but it works. If you do nothing else at church, do this. It’s the way I grew the most over my time at uni. And I listened to a lot of sermons…!
Don’t underestimate the opportunity
University is a unique time where people are thinking through deep questions are are perhaps more open-minded than at other stages in life. It's therefore a fantastic opportunity to be sharing Christ, even if that thought terrifies you (it did me)! Your church and CU are there to equip you for this; invite your friends to something they run. A Christian friend of mine inviting one of our mates to a CU “Big Question” talk was a huge watershed moment in my relationship with him, triggering many (sometimes difficult) conversations and Bible studies. He’s not yet a Christian, but that’s not our work!
Do embrace the incredible diversity of university
God says it is too small a thing for only one type of people to come to Christ (Isaiah 49). University presents you with an unparalleled opportunity to meet people from all over the world (in London, some 110,000 students pour in each year from overseas). Put together, this is a great cocktail for engaging in God’s loving call to the nations. We can be generous towards internationals by welcoming them, crossing cultural barriers to do so. It's well worth the extra effort to make international friends, and I found they were surprisingly open to exploring church and Jesus with me. Do be looking out for international cafes and events run by your CU or church to help you with this.
So, to summarise the four snippets of advice:
- Be open that you’re a Christian from the get go.
- Meet with someone appropriate one to one to read the Bible, share and pray together.
- Make use of the unique time to share Jesus.
- Step out and welcome your international counterparts.
Expect ups and downs during university. But it is such a great time to explore and grow, particularly as part of a healthy church family, so don’t waste it! And remember to take your identity with you.