As social-distancing restrictions have eased this summer term, CUs have been delighted to start meeting in-person again. They have gathered for book clubs, Impact Groups, beach trips, first-contact evangelism and many other events in Covid-secure venues.
1st physical, distanced CU meeting of the year @HuddCU. Thanks @ged_aizhu for speaking so powerfully. Couldn’t contain the tears as we sang outside & heard of a CU member’s friend coming to faith last night! Covid is hard. People are precious. God is faithful. @UCCF #cunews pic.twitter.com/twwOQYXtL8— Andrea Dalton (@abcdalton26) May 24, 2021
As they've done this, they've been reminded of how fruitful face-to-face ministry can be.
Manchester CU, for example, ran a book club in a park across June. On one occasion, four Chinese students spotted them and approached to ask what they were doing. They ended up joining the discussion, and one is now in regular contact with the CU and has started reading the Bible.
But despite meeting in-person again, the online presence of the CUs has not disappeared. Instead, a new kind of hybrid 'phygital' (physical and digital) CU ministry has emerged.
Lots of CUs have continued to stream their meetings on Zoom. One reason for this is that it makes their meetings accessible to students they have historically found it harder to reach, such as commuting students or those on placements. One Derby CU first-year is deaf and would never normally have been able to access CU, but they put captions on their online videos. She is now serving on the committee in the coming year!
The CUs have also remained active on social media channels this term. This is because it has proved to be a helpful 'front door' for curious students. This term, for example, two students found details for a Queen Margaret CU seeker group on Facebook and so started coming along. They came back week after week, reading John's Gospel and then Romans, saying that finding out about Christianity has been like 'turning on a light switch' – though it seems dim at the moment, the more they understand the brighter the light seems to get.
This term, Bournemouth CU ran a mission week almost entirely online! They found that running events digitally helped them be even more creative. President Sophie says, 'Being restricted to online content created a new challenge for us but the Lord turned it for good and we were able to reach out in a completely different way because of it.'
As the student mission field has become increasingly phygital over the last few years, it’s become apparent that the CU’s outreach has needed to be so too. Wonderfully, it seems the pandemic has helped them take healthy leaps and bounds in this direction – growing their digital mindset, while at the same time helping them realise the irreplaceable nature of in-person ministry.
Let’s praise God for how He has brought good out of a challenging year. Let’s pray the CUs' use of digital outreach will positively enhance and strengthen their overall ministry, and bring many to know and love Him in this new and changing decade.
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