Another Learning Experience
Are you one of the thousands of teenagers heading to University this year? If so, how will you decide which church to be part of?
It’s that time of year. Lots of young people have collected their A-level results and are preparing to head off to university. Maybe you’re one of them. You’ve already had to make some big decisions and now there are more to come: which module options to select, which societies and clubs to join, where to live… and then there’s church.
Choosing a church may feel like an added complication on top of everything else. I remember being wooed and wined and dined by different churches: a pizza evening here, hospitality there. Every church seemed to want to persuade me that theirs was the one to go to. They would make sure I was looked after and well fed (both spiritually and physically!). I remember being a little bewildered by the choice and taking quite a long time to settle into a local church.
The good news…
There are lots of really great churches in most of our university towns and cities who are geared up to welcoming students. If you join one, then chances are you will benefit from great Bible teaching, enjoy lively worship music and be well-catered for in terms of a dedicated student programme.
Most students will find exactly what they need for the next three or four years and, if that’s you, I’d encourage you to settle in quickly and enjoy the fellowship.
However, without wanting to overwhelm, I want to put out a little plea on behalf of some other churches.
We are increasingly seeing a disconnect between areas of our cities that are saturated with healthy Bible churches and those that are not. It’s not an exact science, but the distinction tends to be between our suburbs with student/graduate neighbourhoods and the inner cities and estates. Often the inner city and estate churches tend to be fewer in number and smaller in size. When their young people reach 18, they head off to university and maybe don’t come back. You may even be leaving a church like that.
Now, here’s the thing. They may not be next door to the university accommodation, but many of these churches are not hard to get to. Perhaps a 40-minute walk or a 15-minute bus ride, but if you are willing to venture out a little further from campus, it will be well worth your while.
If you choose to venture into one of these churches, first of all, you will be blessed.
You will find family churches with people that want to welcome you and love you. You won’t be arriving with a crowd of students and so it will be much easier for you to get to know them and for them to get to know you. You will be encouraged. You may find a church that is struggling numbers-wise, but there is also a good chance that you will find a church where the members are willing to take risks and be creative in order to reach their community with the gospel.
It is increasingly likely that you will have the opportunity to experience the great diversity of cultures that make up city life. For example, if you turned up at Bearwood Chapel, you would meet hospital consultants and refugees, senior managers and rough sleepers. You would meet Spanish and Portuguese speaking South Americans, Nigerians, Kenyans and Romanians. You would be sitting alongside mothers with babies in their arms, just a few weeks old, and faithful elderly members thankful to God for giving them 90+ years to praise him.
Be a blessing
Secondly, you will be a blessing. There are so many opportunities for you to be able to immediately get involved in serving. Are you studying a modern foreign language? Imagine being able to put what you learn into practice each week by sitting alongside a native French or Spanish speaker and translating for them.
Do you have musical gifts? There will always be a place in the worship group.
Is God calling you to preach? I am grateful that I was first given the opportunity to preach in a small church in Bradford at just 19 years old.
There will be opportunities to experience cross-cultural outreach and share the gospel, learning how to build relationships with people from different backgrounds to you. You will be able to encourage a local church family with your presence. It is highly likely that when you finish university, you will want to stay on and get established in that church.
If you arrive at university this year and find yourself settled and growing in a good student church, then that will be fantastic. But before you do that, why not take a second look at some of the other churches a little further afield? You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
If you’re heading to university and would like to know which FIEC churches are nearby, visit our Church search page.