As social-distancing restrictions have eased this summer term, CUs have seized the opportunity to meet in-person. Dodging rainy and cold spells, they’ve met safely for book clubs in parks, Impact Groups in houses, run beach trips, first-contact evangelism and 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
It’s been a no brainer for the CUs. Being unable to meet in-person for a year has made them fully aware of how precious face-to-face contact is – how it enables relationships to grow, honest gospel conversations to be had and mission to unfold in a natural and spontaneous way.
Manchester CU were reminded of this when four Chinese girls saw their book club meeting in a park this summer, and approached them wanting to know 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 as in-person mission has re-established itself, online mission has not disappeared. Aware that digital outreach has a lot to offer, a new kind of hybrid 'phygital' (physical and digital) CU ministry has emerged…
Lots of CUs have continued to gather online this summer, for many reasons. One is that this makes their meetings accessible to students they might not otherwise historically have reached – commuters, those on placement, even hard of hearing students. One Derby CU first-year is deaf and would never normally have been able to access CU, but the CU put captions on their online video meetings, and as a result this student is now serving on the committee!
The CUs remained active on social media this term, as it has proved to be a helpful 'front door' for new students. Even in the final summer term, for example, two unbelieving students found details for a Queen Margaret CU seeker group on Facebook. They came back week after week, reading John's Gospel and then Romans. One said that finding out about Christianity has been like 'turning on a light switch – though it seems dim at the moment, the more she understands the brighter the light seems to get.'
This term, Bournemouth CU ran a mission week almost entirely online! They found that running events online 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 needs to become phygital 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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