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Students at a CU event

Diary of a CU guest

‘Would you be interested in our events this week?’ I asked, offering an information flyer to the passers-by in the university hallway, a busy thoroughfare leading to lectures and the library.

Most students had taken one. Some even stopped to chat, asking, ‘What’s this about?’, or having a go on the “Question wheel”: discussing purpose, identity or love over a free bowl of cereal or cup of coffee.

One girl in particular looked as if she was heading our way. As I cheerfully invited her to an upcoming event, she smiled, shaking her head slightly… ‘I’m actually part of the Christian Union!’ she said, handing her bag of milk and cereal refills to the CU member behind the table.

It was my first day as a CU guest with Kingston University Christian Union in south-west London, and so far I had managed to invite about six members of the CU to their own events! Being a CU guest means coming into an unfamiliar context – and Kingston was certainly different from my previous university experience.

It’s a diverse university, where subjects range from dance, business and midwifery to creative writing and aeronautical engineering. The city-based campus hosts a range of part-time courses, and many students commute from their family home rather than live in university halls or rented accommodation. This means that CU students get creative about how they engage their peers with the gospel. For Kingston, this has meant fewer lecture-style events, and more film nights, question boards in public spaces, art exhibitions and dance displays.

Christian Unions seek to share the good news of Jesus creatively, joyfully and clearly in their university, and students are best placed to know, love, serve and speak into their own context. As a guest, I was able to encourage these students: to pray with them, hand out flyers with them and join them in conversations that point to Jesus as we answered difficult questions. Within this concentrated week of events, I got a whistle-stop tour of the outreach that these students were doing all year round. And, as events and discussion boards introduced us to students with no personal link to the CU, CU members like Karen committed themselves to following up with them quickly, making the most of the opportunity to explore the gospel together.

Students like Karen are why I think CUs work. Their enthusiasm and vision for reaching out to the students around them was irrepressible. Take the two CU girls who had befriended a group of Muslim girls. They shared experiences and went out for coffee to talk, discussing what they each believed. It’s in this context of ongoing friendships that a spark of interest can lead to a journey of understanding what a personal relationship with God could really mean.

This week, I got to meet one student, now part of the CU, for whom this had been the case. I got to pray with Rachel, a second-year art student, who hopes this could be the story for her friends, and so spends time with them, shares her life with them, and invites them to events like the CU's 'Quiz a Christian' night, where they asked their questions, and the art exhibition, where she used her artwork to focus on the week’s theme, ‘Why?’, talking engagingly about her experiences of questioning and finding answers in Jesus.  

By the end of the week, I knew a lot more names and faces than my initial experience of handing out flyers would imply. However, I’m still convinced that it’s those ongoing friendships, students reaching students, that God will use to make Himself known in our universities. 

Joanna Robertson is UCCF’s Digital Communications Officer. 

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