As the University year starts, Lauren Windle discusses the different options facing teens heading into freshers’ week.
If ever there’s going to be a time when a devoted Christian teen will stop prioritising their faith, it’s at university. The story of a person raised in a Christian home, having a few years away in their late teens/early twenties and then coming back to church around the age of 24 is textbook. Questioning and exploring is a big part of making your faith your own, and many people who followed that well-trodden path would say the time of distance helped them value proximity with God even more. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As someone who made quite a dramatic exit from my Christian upbringing in my early teens, only to come back at 25 with both desperation and a drug addiction, I’m convinced there was a better route to the firm belief and personal relationship that I now have. Laced in amongst the plentiful stories of Freshers’ week boozing and one-night stands are moments of pure joy, of huge lightness and of Jesus.
He said: “I often think if I hadn’t gone to church that Sunday at university, why would I have gone the second Sunday or the third Sunday?”
Take Stephen Foster’s experience of his first week at Uni. The rector of St Aldates Church Oxford, told Streams Studio that he went out on his first night and was in a bar drinking . He got chatting to a girl who thought he was coming on to her and announced very quickly that she was a Christian. He replied that he had “some kind of faith” so she challenged him, that if that were true, he would come to church with her the following morning. He agreed but then forgot, continuing to drink and rounding off the night at the ripe old time of 4am. But at 9am she came and knocked on his door and took him to church.
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He explained that despite the hangover, he was really impacted by the service. He said: “I often think if I hadn’t gone to church that Sunday at university, why would I have gone the second Sunday or the third Sunday?” It was those services that kick started his years of relationship with Jesus. In Stephen’s own words: “One conversation at a bar changed everything.”
Not everyone gives up on church and embraces the wild ways of the student union.
Those heading off to university should feel encouraged. Not everyone gives up on church and embraces the wild ways of the student union. Some, like his friend, invite people to church, find churches which feel like home and grow closer and closer to Christ. And that’s what I’m praying over this year’s cohort.