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Student work: Imparting skills for life

University students march in support of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Libby Leach has been working with the GBU in France for the past 19 years. Here she shares insights into how they aim to equip and train students to have a Christian worldview and be lifelong followers of Jesus. 

I once heard a student worker say that if the students in our Christian groups don’t leave university equipped for a lifetime of serving Jesus, then we have failed. As student workers, we have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to train Christian students to think through a biblical view of life at a time when they are constructing their worldview and to give them tools to be witnesses for Jesus in a world that doesn’t know Him.

All Christians live out their faith surrounded by a worldview that is opposed to a biblical one. The Bible presents God at the centre of things and says that our priorities should revolve around him. But human beings naturally view things differently: we put ourselves at the centre and cultures around the world reflect that perspective. For western European Christians, the mainstream worldview is very openly human-centred (hence its name, ‘humanism’). How do we prepare students to think and live counter-culturally?

Study the Bible, all of it

Students today receive lots of information, but in order for them to centre their lives around God, his voice needs to become the most important voice they hear. So teaching the Bible is central to what we do, whether it’s in groups or one-to-one. As we read all of the Bible, we see the big plans of God with him at the centre. Therefore, our smaller plans – relationships, career, money and church – find their rightful place.

For the last 14 years in Paris, we’ve run a weekend where we take a key biblical theme and do an overview of what the entire Bible says about that theme. Our speaker this year was Pierre-Sovann, who did this weekend as a student for the first time 10 years ago. He recalls that on that weekend years ago, he understood for the first time that God was sovereign and that knowledge radically changed the way he viewed the world. The reworking of his worldview took years of reading and discussing, but the domino effect began by understanding the “big picture” themes of the Bible.

Apply the Bible

Knowing that God should be at the centre of life is vital, but if none of our decisions reflect this fact can we really consider that we “know” this? Therefore, our basic weekly activity with students is to help them understand God’s word themselves and discuss how to apply it in their lives.

As students graduate from university we invite them to a day called “Vivement la Vie Active” (or “I can’t wait to work”). We look at what the Bible teaches about questions like work, money, time management and church involvement. We love hearing feedback from graduates who have attended these days about how they’re living out their Christian worldview. We are encouraged to hear from people such as Adele*, who decided to play a support role in her small and struggling local church rather than an easier larger church, as it is the only Bible-based church in their suburb. We hear from Etienne*, who has a high-pressure job in publicity but takes time out to teach young adults to understand the Bible for themselves. Or we hear from Michelle*, deliberately choosing a job that allows her to grow at a local church and build up a network of Christians in the business sector.

Trust God

The real test of student work is whether we are helping people build their faith on firm foundations, as their faith will be tested over time. But as we centre on studying the Bible and teaching them to apply it in their lives, we trust God that they are being equipped to live the rest of their lives for Christ. God doesn’t finish his work when the person graduates university – his work continues in and through that person for eternity.

CARE

Student ministry workers are on the frontlines, evangelising to and discipling the next generation of Christians. Like all missionaries, their work is counter-cultural and can be difficult. Why not write them an email of encouragement to tell them you are praying for them and their work?