Unexpected upsides of online mission
Without a doubt, meeting through a computer screen isn’t quite the same. In lots of ways, you can’t substitute for catching up with a friend in a cafe, delivering a talk from a stage or praying together in person.
But, as the CUs have boldly carried on in evangelism (even if the methods look a little different!), we've spotted a few interesting advantages to evangelising online...
Traditionally, CUs operate in university term time.
They press pause during holidays, and might even suspend activity during the shorter summer term as many students go on placements, or hibernate in the library, revising for exams. But, not this year!
Due to their university timetable, Caledonian CU were meant to have finished all activity in the spring. But, because of these unusual times they decided to continue. They began online 'Caley Connect Groups', where students (many of whom are on the frontline in pharmacies, opticians and care homes) are able to keep in touch, support and pray for one another.
A wide reach
With no travel plans to make and no rooms to book, those previously prevented by time or location can now take part in CU events. Similarily, many who were too nervous to step into a church or lecture hall have found online invites less daunting to accept.
As a result, some CUs have seen growing numbers watching their talks and new students tune into online meetings.
‘At our first online CU meeting we had someone new join us. It was such an encouragement to us all and reminded us that we can still share the gospel even when we’re not physically meeting together.’— The Christian Unions (@UCCF) May 4, 2020
- Sara, Kent CU student 🙌#CUNews
The University of the West of England CU, for example, decided to reach students with the gospel by running an an online talent show. They pre-recorded acts and then showcased them live, with a short talk about hoping in Jesus in the middle. CU president Caleb said:
'It’s exciting to see so many people engaging on social media! Since the event last night, our stats have risen very dramatically - it's had over 1,200 views, averaging 48 mins watch time! From my perspective, it went fantastically. I had an unbelieving friend who isn’t a regular tell me “it was interesting to hear about lasting hope in the face of the world around, it definitely gives me something to think about". It’s really encouraging to see God can do big things even with our small CU!'
Access to speakers
As distance and travel are no longer issues, some CUs are inviting speakers not just from across the UK to come and speak at meetings, but from all over the world. In the first week of term, Cambridge Inter-Collegiate CU had a pastor from Belfast come to preach on John 21, and are now intending to invite speakers from Romania and Nigeria.
New kinds of events
City-wide or regional events that might have taken days of preparation and cost are now far simpler to organise. As lockdown began, for example, all the CUs in Nottingham joined together for a spontaneous, online training event – 32 tuned in, and were encouraged to unite in evangelism with so many others in the city.
Welcoming in next years’ students
Encouragingly, as they’ve advertised their meetings online, some CUs have even seen students who are in their final-year of school or on gap years join them ahead of starting university in September.
‘Last week we were joined at our weekly prayer meeting by a potential CU fresher joining us in September! This could never have happened if we'd been meeting in person, and though many of us long for the time when we can resume meeting, it's great that God has used virtual meetings to encourage us and potential freshers in this way.’ – Plymouth Relay Worker, Phil
We praise God for His kindness in bringing good out of a challenging situation and continuing to grow the CU mission teams in unexpected ways. If you's like to hear more stories from CU mission online, please do sign up for our CU News emails here.