I went to the Christian Union in my first year and found it quite difficult. I stopped going but felt called back, because if no one from my type of church goes to CU then that won’t be represented there.
It’s also such a sick opportunity to evangelise campus alongside people from other parts of the church, which is difficult at times when you disagree but also a real healthy stretch. We run events, where the aim is to bless the campus, like after clubbing nights we’ll hand out bottles of water, which is a practical way to demonstrate love. We have events every other week with pizza at lunchtime and a talk on faith with an opportunity for discussion.
The overriding culture at university is apathy. The postmodern view of: “That’s your truth, I’ll just live my life.” So I think the main thing is just getting people interested in talking about faith. A lot of people that end up at CU events really enjoy them because people don’t really talk about that sort of stuff much in everyday life. It’s just not really the culture, so giving people the space to explore bigger questions is quite well received.
The overriding culture at university is apathy
The big thing for me in sixth form was apologetics, having big debates, which can rock your faith if you’re not solid on what you think. At uni, that’s been much less the case, I think the challenges for me have been more lifestyle stuff.
In some ways, the fact that people are open to anything means they are open to you living differently and not partying in the way they do. There is that hedonistic (that makes it sound way too serious!) undertone to uni culture, so living ‘in but not of’ comes to a head in terms of going on nights out and wanting to do that in a way that glorifies God. I have so much fun, I go out and stuff like that, but that’s an easy place to slip up, just because the culture is so ‘one way’ in those places.
I think church is massive, when you look at other students, they don’t have any family in Birmingham outside of their student bubble. Having a wider family to fit into, being part of a community where you’re loved and people watch out for you, care for you and mentor you. It’s a place you can always come back to.
Last year I brought a friend to one of the CU big question events and remember thinking: “That was OK, but the speaker got X, Y and Z mildly wrong!” But it made a massive difference for her perspective. She went into the talk thinking that all of Christianity was nonsense and came out thinking the resurrection probably happened. That was amazing! She is not there yet but she has come to church loads and knows it’s a community where she’s accepted and loved and is exploring what Jesus has to say in her life. That’s been really cool, and there’s been similar experiences with a few other friends.
Seb is a philosophy student at Birmingham university.