UCCF: Reaching Freshers
There are around 2.5 million students studying in Higher Education today. According to the Guardian newspaper, record numbers of students are starting university placements each year, with the paper reporting that 481,854 students were given places to start in September 2009.
The Christian Unions within the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship(UCCF) – formerly known as the Inter-Varsity Fellowship – comprises over 206 CUs (made up of around 10,000 students) in England, Scotland and Wales. Our collective vision is to give every student in Britain an opportunity to hear about the love of Jesus shown in the gospel. The opportunities for student mission are vast.
Freshers weeks are a fantastic time for Christian students to put on events, invite friends to talks and reach out to new students – many of whom who have little or no knowledge of the gospel and are, mostly, from completely unchurched backgrounds.
Kenny Roberts (UCCF assistant team leader in Scotland) comments: ‘St Andrews University CU had a great freshers’ week. They had a BBQ in the chaplaincy gardens, a ceilidh and tours of the town. Despite the pouring rain they had a string quartet playing under a gazebo, and served up refreshments under a tree.
‘The evangelism secretary (a member of the CU Executive Committee) delivered an excellent talk titled “What happens when God turns up at a party?” and spoke from John 2 on the wedding at Cana. It was a great event, really original, and one that people enjoyed being at and got to hear the gospel. They also had 500 students turn up to their first meeting on the Friday night’.
Clive Parnel (UCCF creative evangelism trainer) talked to a student at Stirling University. ‘A student came up to me after I delivered a gospel talk and asked me how I became a Christian. I told him my testimony and he asked some more questions. He said that the talk really made sense and it seemed as if a light had gone on in his head.
‘He told me he hadn’t really ever read the Bible, so I gave him a copy of Mark’s Gospel and encouraged him to read it with the local UCCF staff worker. Sharing the gospel on campus is not easy in the present climate, but I realize that more and more students have literally never heard the gospel’.
It’s not all plain sailing though. Glasgow University CU were banned from distributing free food because their barbecues in the past had been so popular they had stopped catering services at the university making money. Caroline Dodds (CU staff worker in Glasgow) says that the CU have it all in hand, ‘We’re looking into buying food directly from the university catering services for next time we have an events week. That will, hopefully, sort it all out’.
Clearly, university freshers’ weeks represent great opportunities to talk to non-believing students about the gospel. They are also a great way to help introduce Christian students to the local CU where they’re able make some Christian friends who will support them, care for them and also help them find a good local church.
Luke Cawley (CU staff worker, Stoke) tells the story of how one student went to great lengths to make sure there was CU at his University to be a witness to non-believers and a safe place for believers.
‘When the summer started, Caleb was a one-man CU. With all the other members of Manchester Metropolitan University CU graduating in the summer, he was left to try and re-launch the group alone. With a lot of prayer and help from incoming student Amy, the CU leafleted every room in halls and launched a massive publicity drive.
‘The result was 45 new students signing up for the CU at freshers’ fair and 20 attending the first main meeting of the year. Most of those attending expressed their excitement at being a part of a mission team which will aim to reach every student on campus with the gospel’.
Do pray for CUs. That they are welcoming, warm and prepared to engage with students where they are at.
Head of communications, UCCF