Determined to make Jesus known but unable to run campus events, hold physical gatherings or even hand out flyers, the Christian Unions have been getting creative this year. Quirky and unusual outreach – such as dropping cake off outside halls of residence! – has emerged, but the main change for most has been Impact Groups.
In an Impact Group, around six students within the CU meet weekly to study Philippians, enjoy fellowship and encourage one another in evangelism. Since they launched, there has been an overwhelming number of students interested in joining a group, with 127 CUs across Great Britain running them, and over one thousand current CU members stepping up to lead.
But what impact has this had on CU mission?
‘Joining the CU and being part of an Impact Group has transformed my start to university. Being able to connect with like-minded people, study God’s Word and be a source of support for each other has been so amazing and something I’ve never had before!’ – Amy, a first-year student at Imperial University.
Starting uni is a nerve-wracking time for any student, where beliefs are questioned and patterns for the rest of the year are set. This year, Impact Groups offered community at a time where community was nearly impossible to find and have been key in enabling believing students to meet other Christians and grow in their love for Jesus and evangelism.
‘We’ve been encouraged by the wide variety of people that have got involved. Of particular encouragement is Sarah (name changed) who only started looking into Jesus two months ago on YouTube during lockdown. She’s loved being in an Impact Group and having Christians to help her find her footing.’ – Pete Johnson, Staff Worker in Newcastle
Not only have Impact Groups been drawing new believers into the CU, but they’ve been attracting a wide range of other students. Wonderfully, the small nature of the groups mean it’s harder for students who aren’t certain about Christianity to feel on the fringe and slip away unnoticed, and easier for them to ask questions.
‘Impact Groups have also acted as defibrillators and have given new life to CUs – some who have been dormant or not had a CU for a while have now come back to life.’ – Peter Harris, Wales Team Leader
As Impact Groups have drawn in new students – the wider CU body has also expanded! This has been especially exciting for smaller or shrinking mission teams. The 20 members in the London School of Economics CU, for example, were overjoyed to have 60 start coming to their Impact Groups. Similarly, the two remaining members of Leeds Trinity CU this year boldly started one up and now a group of six meet regularly, (including an unbelieving student who prays at the end of each session!).
Growth like this often brings new opportunities for evangelism. Brunel Staff Worker, Naomi Hollands, says, ‘Brunel CU grew from 10 regular members to 40! It’s amazing how God has brought people along despite the current climate. Freshers have been inviting flatmates to online events and even to our main meetings so they can ask questions. There are some changes to make as a result of this growth, so do pray.’
We’ve even heard stories of Impact Groups helping start new mission teams. Nottingham Trent City CU created an Impact Group especially for a small agricultural campus an hour and a half outside the city called Brackenhurst, that has never had a CU running. Three Christian students came along and are now praying that this will help them later launch their own CU – one of them even brought three unbelieving friends to the meeting with her!
We’ve been so encouraged to see how God has used Impact Groups to make His name known in the universities, despite the trials and difficulties of doing mission during Covid-19. It is our prayer that these groups continue to be a support for struggling students, and a means by which many come to know and love Christ.
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