Finding connections

by Rosalind Langley

Have you ever walked into a church and felt completely alone, as though the entire building were staring down at you, as you fumbled awkwardly with your prayer bulletin to find a seat at the back? In an age where social media has left us with fewer interpersonal skills than ever, it has never been more important to train a new generation of welcomers who will help enfold people into Christian community. God himself is a welcoming God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4; ESV).This year over a hundred students attended Annual Conference (AnCon) for the first time, bravely walking into a building of over 600 people. Anthea, a second year student, recalls her first experience of AnCon in 2014 “There were lots of people and it was slightly overwhelming, but all the other students were friendly and welcoming”.

What do we do to make sure than when students attend ancon they aren’t just joining a conference but a community? The day before AnCon the EU’s leadership met for a one day conference called ‘Precon’. The aim of the conference was to help students feel refreshed before starting AnCon but also to help gear them for purposeful welcoming across the conference. Third year students Matt and Samantha commented that arriving a day earlier than the rest of the attendees allowed them to be in the right headspace to welcome others when the conference started. Moreover this attitude of welcoming seems to pervade the whole EU; “The EU attitude is that you rock up and welcome people” Matt says. These students have been so welcomed themselves that they are ready to show this love to others that they come into contact with. Which allows them not only to minister to those on AnCon, but also at other EU events and in the rest of life. James, a science student, notes that doing ministry with the EU has not only enabled him to welcome people better in the EU but has also helped him to better learn how to approach and start conversations with new people at church.

We hope that this welcoming attitude will set a trajectory for the rest of their lives, making our churches more welcoming spaces in an age of increasing hostility toward God’s people.

What we do today in helping EUers learn to welcome people at AnCon, Public meetings, small groups and more has the potential to change church communities across Sydney, Australia and beyond as more and more people are connected into God’s church.

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