Students

A church that’s investing in the next generation

With a focus on connection and discipleship, Coventry Elim is shoring up the faith of its students and young adults.

They’ve been dubbed ‘Generation Me’ and ‘snowflakes’, but life for students and young adults today can be tough. Especially if you’re a Christian.

That’s why Coventry Elim is investing in its ministry for 18-30s.

The church is helping young people navigate the challenges of faith in a secular society, loneliness and finding community after leaving home.

It’s a ministry that has blossomed over the past four years, explains the church’s student worker Joe Davis, who is spearheading the work.

“We have Coventry and Warwick universities and Nexus nearby, plus young adults who have either moved here, stayed after graduating or grew up through the church. We want to connect with them all,” he says.

Around 40 students and young adults gather each week for food, worship, prayer and Bible study, often attracted via the church’s social media or lives-tream.

One of the priorities, says Joe, is to offer them authentic community.

“Most adults figure community out on their own, but with young adults the need for connection is so much greater that it can’t be left to chance.

“We’re really intentional about making sure students and young adults feel they have a place where they belong, where they can know people and be known.

“One of the biggest issues for them is loneliness. If they’ve just left their family or friends they need to be rooted in a community where they can grow and be accepted. That’s what we’re trying to offer.”

To build friendship and connection, the group eats together each week, and Joe has introduced an inventive way of getting them to mix.

“We give everybody a number on the way in, then use these to put them in groups. It’s a way of randomising who people sit with so they always meet new people.”

Joe is also keen to help the group stay strong in their faith and understand how to live in an ever-more-secular society.

“Holding on to religious beliefs and to the commands and teachings of Jesus is increasingly hard, especially in a work-place or university campus.

“It’s difficult to stand for what you believe in, so having a community where you are bolstered and encouraged is really important.”

Last summer, the church ran a series focusing on some of the most complex issues in society today to provide space for debate and to build a biblical worldview around them.

“It’s really important to help young adults engage with the world as it actually is,” says Joe.

“We looked at the Black Lives Matter movement and what that means. People had space to contribute their own views and we had good conversations about people’s experience as ethnic minorities.

“Another really helpful one was looking at LGBTQ+ and transgender issues.

This was a tricky one because the secular view is becoming widely ingrained in our culture, and disagreeing with it is becoming not only undesirable but offensive in many people’s eyes.

“We had talks, panel discussions and conversations, and tried to navigate how we can love people well and be people of conviction but also compassion.

“I wanted us to generate a biblical world-view and make sure we understand what we believe and can explain or defend it if anyone asks us a question.”

Joe accepts that working with students means they often move on after a few years, so he maintains a steady focus on discipleship that will benefit people for life.

“At the moment, we’re looking at the teachings of Jesus. It’s really important for young adults to have a good working understanding of the Bible.

We want them to encounter Jesus, but also to understand their faith and move towards biblical literacy where we have more opportunities for in-depth study and discussion.”

Launching your own young adult ministry

“You need people who are going to be passionate and pastoral about it,” says Joe, “because young adults need people to walk with them.

“They really benefit from and appreciate working with leaders and being pastored in a close way.

“It does require commitment, but there’s never been more help out there. The Evangelical Alliance has really great material, and organisations like Fusion work with churches to build student ministries and have resources for Bible studies too.

“Also, if you are in a student city, the university Christian Unions love to have helpful local churches to work with.”

Student viewpoint: Tai Du Plessis on ministry for young adults

Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Tai and I’m a third year Sociology student from South Africa at the University of Warwick. I’ve grown up in and around church but started attending Elim Coventry in my first year at university.

Why did you join the Student and Young Adults group?
I was craving church community and missed having Christians my age around. The Student and Young Adults group seemed perfect and became a home.

Why do you enjoy it, how has it helped you and what has it taught you?
SYA has helped me in so many different ways. For one, the teaching has challenged me and comforted me, especially in navigating university life. More than that, the people in SYA have become like family and really fed into and invested in my spiritual growth.

 

First published in the May 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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