Seven years ago I took the long journey from “up north” to “sunny” Brighton to start my university life. As we drove the many miles of seemingly endless motorway, I experienced a whole range of emotions: I was anxious about having to make new friends; I was excited about starting a new life away from my parents; I was eager for new experiences and opportunities; and I was also apprehensive about the prospect of living as a Christian in this new environment.
When I thought of uni, I thought of all-night parties, drinking, drugs and casual sex. These are the things uni is often known for. Surrounded by these opportunities and pressures, would I be able to live for God? How should I respond? Would my new friends respect me and the decisions that I knew I should make? What would it look like to be a Christian at uni?
These questions stayed with me over the next three years. During that time I made many mistakes. I didn’t always respond well to the challenges that uni life poses for Christian students. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but I’m thankful to God that He helped me through every step of the way. I’m also thankful to older Christians whose wise words and encouragements helped me so much.
God began to teach me that there was much more to being a Christian at uni than just avoiding sinful behaviour. Thousands of students gathered together to learn and grow – what better place could there be to share the Good News of Jesus? I realised that God doesn’t just want Christian students to survive uni, but thrive there - living and speaking courageously for Him.
Several years on, I’m still involved in the student world. Since graduating, I’ve been working full time with the church, trying to help students make the most of being a student.
Unfortunately, not all Christian students’ experiences are positive. Recently I was saddened to read some research that suggested almost three quarters of students who have a Christian upbringing don’t get involved with a local church at university.
Faced with the pressures of uni life, it seems many Christian students abandon the path of following Jesus. If we just focus on the statistics, the outlook might seem bleak.
But when we look at the Bible, God’s church is on the front foot: It seems natural for the church to be growing. After all, Jesus has promised, “I will build my church” and I believe, as I’m sure hundreds of other student workers around the country do as well, that He is going to do this in UK universities just as much as anywhere else.
After seven years in student ministry and inspired by this conviction, I have decided to put down on paper the principles and practices that I have found helpful in living the Christian life at uni. The result is the Student Christian Handbook. It’s something I wished I had when I started uni, a practical and Biblical guide to uni life in the twenty first century.
In it, I attempt to answer questions that Christian students tend to ask like, how do I respond to stuff like drink and drugs and sex and pornography? What about relationships – what should and shouldn’t I do? What do I look for in a new church? How do I grow in my relationship with God?
My hope is that this short book inspires and encourages students to put God first at university. Jesus is clear to us that the path of following Him isn’t easy. Nowhere are the narrow and wide roads that He describes more obvious than at British universities. But He also promises that life lived His way is a life in all fullness and the way to true joy.
If you’re a student please read it, take all you can from it and pass it on to others who may find it helpful.
You can download a PDF of the book completely free here.