Evangelism in the student world
Life in the student world moves really quickly. A whole generation of students is over and done within three years, and so memories are short and changes are quick. That’s true for fashion and music tastes, but it’s also true for ideas.
I’ve been working in student ministry for 14 years now, and one of the most obvious ways that I’ve seen these changes in ideas become clear is in the questions that seeking students are asking.
When I started, we were in the midst of the New Atheist movement. Every other student had a copy of ‘The God Delusion’ and all of the conversations revolved around one big question: ‘Is Christianity true?’ Whether it was debates on the resurrection, or arguments over the relationship between science and faith, defending the truth of the gospel was what it was all about.
A few years later that had morphed into something less cerebral and much more personal. We were chatting about stories, about who we were, what had happened to make us that way, and ultimately, whether Jesus could speak into those stories. The big question had become: ‘Is Christianity good?’ We were defending our faith against accusations that it was restrictive or oppressive, and we were chatting about the need for every person to have an answer to questions about suffering and worth, and hope.
Now, it’s 2021, and we’ve moved on again. It’s not that truth and goodness aren’t important anymore, of course, they are, but somehow they have mixed together with the reality of the last year of crisis and a new question has arrived: ‘Does Christianity work?’
When society shuts down and everything we knew for certain is no longer true, does Christianity work? When our plans and dreams are destroyed, does Christianity work? When people are lonely and desperate and suffering, does Christianity work? When we come face to face with death, does Christianity work?
If we’re going to share the gospel with students (and why wouldn’t we?) we’ve got to pay attention to these questions. The student world moves on quickly, and no doubt there’ll be other questions coming along again in a few years' time. The best way to work out what the current generation is asking is to work hard at listening to them.
The wonderful news is that the gospel does answer any and every question. Whether they’re asking ‘is it true?’ or ‘is it good?’ or even, ‘does it work?’, the answer is a resounding and glorious, Yes!
Written by Ellidh Cook
Ellidh works at All Souls, Langham Place as their student worker. She previously worked for UCCF as a staff worker.