Community in Christ

by EU GradsFund

How do you build community when your students never see each other?

This has been the question that I’ve wrestled with all semester as I’ve begun a new journey in ministry, as the faculty staff worker for Arts and Social Work.

I came from a science degree, where I spent upwards of 10 hours with the same people, so friendships developed pretty quickly.

I also was a Howie with the Engineering and Design faculties, where they spend over 20 hours with each other (and many sleepless nights!) so community was deeply ingrained within their faculties.

But now I’m back, in a post-covid universe, where the Arts students I work with see each other for one hour a week in small groups, and that’s it!

At church on Sunday, we were thinking about the very thing that makes Christian community unique from Acts 2:42-47. The first church was devoted to teaching and fellowship, to eating together, and praying together. They were committed to one another, under Christ, and so the first Christian community was born.

In week 13, we said our farewells in our small groups, of which I led four first-year groups. My main reflection in each of these four groups was how encouraged I was by their commitment to one another under Christ. For the most part, all of these first years were total strangers to each other, just 13 weeks ago. But they were committed to God’s word and to fellowship, we ate together, and we prayed for each other and with each other. They were brave amongst the awkwardness of making friends as adults. And slowly, but surely, community among the Arts and Social Work students of the EU was born for 2024.

The weird thing they’re trying to navigate now is how to make friends in their wider university faculty. This post-covid era of university means that people come to campus once or maybe twice a week, and they stack all their classes one after the other, so they can’t get coffee or go for lunch in between. Not to mention, these first years lost a couple of really crucial social development years at school with lockdown and are still trying to figure out how to make friends as adults.

This has meant the evangelistic temperature in the faculty has been a bit low for the semester. But with the Meet Jesus evangelistic campaign in semester two, following AnCon, my hope and prayer is that the EU ASW community will be the launching pad for these students to boldly make friends in their classes, and invite them to Meet Jesus.

In the early weeks of the semester, my Wednesday 11 am group was pretty quiet. My small group leaders tried to get some laughs out of them by getting us to draw self-portraits and then make a guessing game out of it.

By week 13, our group had grown, they were genuinely pretty sad to not be in a group together next semester and laughs were natural! It’s amazing what commitment to each other and the word under Christ does for transforming a community.

Please continue to pray for this post-covid university world, that students would develop deep and meaningful relationships with one another, for the sake of community and evangelism.

– Sylvia Barry, EU Senior Staff

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