What’s happening on Campus? Maintaining the Faith of the Gospel – Part II

AFES General Secretary, Andrew Reid, reflects on the progress being made on Australian tertiary campuses for the gospel. The first few months of being an AFES staff worker were memorable. I remember spending two to three hours in the car each day travelling to the campuses I was meant to be responsible for, wondering whether this was really what student ministry was about. When I arrived I only had the meeting time (one hour each week) plus the few minutes before and after to befriend and talk to the students. The meetings themselves were something else. On one campus the main meeting for the week consisted of getting fifty people together to sing choruses for an hour before heading back to lectures. On another there was at least a speaker arranged-even if it had only been a night or so beforehand when the student leaders realised there was no one organised to speak this week. On yet another campus, I tried in vain to hide under the back chair of the lecture theatre as the guitarist/song-leader led forty young adults in “If I were a butterfly”. Within a few weeks it became apparent that something was drastically wrong with the way we were ministering on campus. It took me six months to think through a new model of ministry and another six to begin to implement it. The first step was to realise that the traditional way we carried out ministry was questionable and had to be up for grabs.The students had been taught that they alone were responsible for the ministry on campus and that outside help was not on. As a staff worker, I had been taught that I was merely a “resource person” who had to be asked before becoming involved and who therefore ought to spend the majority of his time travelling to various campuses waiting to see if anyone wanted me to do anything. All this had to be questioned. The students were not managing and were calling out for help. I had the ability and training to help but was spending my days either driving a car or waiting to be asked. So I narrowed down the number of campuses I was responsible for (eventually ending up with just one: Cumberland College of Health Sciences in Sydney) and began to initiate and give direction. The second step was to persuade the students of the new directions that were necessary; to convince them of what was important. To this end, I began attending the committee meetings of the student leaders. Every time an item of programming came up I asked them what they wanted to achieve and how it could be achieved through this particular activity. Gradually they began to understand what their goal should be: to evangelise their campus on the basis of a solid understanding of the gospel, as found in the Scriptures. Thirdly, I began to run a parallel programme of Bible Studies on another lunchtime during the week and a course on how to interpret the Bible during another blank spot in the weekly timetable. This was aimed to achieve two things: to let the students see that I had skills in understanding and interpreting the Bible and therefore had some credentials for giving input into what they should do on campus; and to train future leaders of the group. Over five years the ministry has gradually changed. Staff and students have now developed a different understanding of ministry based on partnership. We have more staff and more students involved. The aims are clearly seen to be evangelistic. Our understanding of the gospel we preach is clearly based on a thorough and systematic understanding of Scripture. People are being converted and a number of students are entering various forms of active Christian ministry as they graduate. Pray that God would continue to give growth to the strategic work of evangelising tertiary students.

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