Theology Network Groups
4 Key Principles for Running a TN Group
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Rejoice in the gospel
Studying theology at university can be wonderfully mind expanding, but it can also be dry and hard at times. The most important thing to remember in running a Theology Network group, as with any form of Christian service, is that you must keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 1:21). “Remain in me, and I will remain in you”, Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). The power for the transformation of our own lives and the lives of others, lies not primarily in what we can do or think or argue for God, but in receiving and rejoicing in what he has done for us. More than that: in Christ himself. So Theology Network groups should be characterised by a joyful confidence in this great gospel that makes sinners, even us, children of God, united to him through Christ.
Stand firm in the gospel
And yet, often it is theology and religious studies students who are least confident in their Christian faith. They spend every day studying the arena of faith and religion from all kinds of perspectives, and yet in many theology departments, the only position that it is not acceptable to hold is historic evangelical faith! That’s why Theology Network invites students to come and stand firm with us in the core truths of the gospel as given in Scripture. We hold to UCCF’s doctrinal basis, which, in the tradition of the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, affirms the basic truths of historic orthodox Christianity[ii]. So we ask all leaders of Theology Network groups to sign the doctrinal basis, and ensure that the input the group receives is in accordance with these wonderful truths. Although it is true that you may find yourselves needing to “guard the good deposit” of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:14), this shouldn’t lead Theology Network groups to become the department’s ‘theology police’! But rather, as students think through and wrestle with these great truths, the groups will become more confident and joyful in the wonderful message that the DB summarises.
Unite in the gospel
It can be quite straightforward to get a Theology Network group started – just advertise it in Freshers’ week and announce it in the CU and the theology department. That may be enough to attract a dozen or more people to your first few meetings. But if that’s all you do, it probably won’t last long. People will come for their own reasons, and may want to take the group in different directions. That’s fine, but if you’re carrying the vision for Theology Network on your own, it will be very difficult to keep the group focused, and when you’re ready to hand over the leadership, there may be no-one appropriate to carry the vision forward. What you need are like-minded brothers and sisters who will stand with you, united in purpose and in the gospel. So you’ll need to get talking: talk about your ideas and the need for a group, talk about theology that creates love for God, read the Bible with these friends and see Jesus and his gospel on every page (cf. Luke 24). Time is limited, so pray and think carefully about whom you should invest time in sharing the vision with – they’ll likely be people who are already confident in faith and passionate about the gospel – these are the people who will be most able to understand the vision and run with it. It might be that you already have these ‘vision sharers’ around you – if so, go ahead and get the ball rolling! But it’s just as likely that time is needed for you to share the vision with others, and more time for them to grasp it and own it, before you start organising a programme of events or meetings. So think people first, programmes second.
All this might sound like a big responsibility. But you are not alone! There are plenty of other Theology Network group leaders that you can connect with through Facebook and UCCF events, and your CU staff worker and the Theology Network staff are here to help you every step of the way. And it’s really important you don't forget your CU – speak to your CU president about your ideas, and make sure you get the CU committee's support. It might be a good idea if you can go along to a CU committee meeting to explain what Theology Network is, and get the whole committee behind you - that will really help with spreading the word. Also, ask the president if you can get a slot at a CU main meeting to tell the rest of the CU about Theology Network and ask them to pray for you and the group. This will be a good opportunity to advertise the group to those who are doing single courses in your department, or just to students in the CU you didn't realise studied theology or RS.
So if starting a Theology Network group is on your heart, first, speak to your CU president, and then get in touch with us at Theology Network: we’d love to have a coffee and a chat and start dreaming with you!
 Highly recommended are Mike Reeves' talks on Union with Christ, which can be heard here http://www.theologynetwork.org/christian-beliefs/justification/starting-out/union-with-christ-1-and-2.htm
[ii] To learn more about why we have a doctrinal basis, read Mike Reeve’s article: http://www.theologynetwork.org/christian-beliefs/why-do-we-have-a-doctrinal-basis-htm