The term for Theology Network (TN) really started with a bang! At Forum, UCCF’s student leaders’ training conference, TN had a real presence – a giant banner on the front of the main marquee and at the TN stall in the exhibition space, many gimmicks were employed to encourage students to get involved.
Theologians are the coolest…
There were large turnouts at the events specifically for theology students, and real interest in getting new groups going or rejuvenating old ones in places such as Bristol, Exeter, Oxford, Cardiff and Durham. The stronger presence at Forum has really made a significant difference to the ministry of TN across Britain. In general, students are better aware of what TN is and what it’s trying to achieve, and there’s a real encouragement among the students involved about being part of something bigger and national.
Since Forum there has been real progress with TN groups across the country, with strong groups running really helpful programmes in many universities up and down Britain.
York St John’s first TN meet
Aberdeen, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Nottingham and York St John have all been doing particularly well. Many groups at their first few meetings had many more students than they were expecting. At the Durham TN freshers’ event, 30 students who had come along to hear a graduate speak on ‘Mistakes to avoid as a Christian studying theology’ had to share just four pizzas between them! Group leader Owen said, ‘Many non-Christians turned up too, knowing full well what TN was. It was a very positive evening.’ At Cambridge, former TN group leader, Jamie Klair, commented:
We are seriously blessed in Cambridge. Half the fresher theologians came to our event, heard about TN and the lecture series, ate scones, and got a free ESV Bible. Please pray that the lecture series is well attended. Thank you for all your support.
Work with theology students across London has also moved forward significantly, with the move of TN Associate, Tom Creedy, from Nottingham to Central London and the help of former St Andrews TN leader, Connie Keep (now UCCF Staff Worker in Central London). Tom has facilitated the re-launch of the King’s College London TN group recently, and is meeting one-to-one with students from Roehampton University and Heythrop College.
TN has been joined by a Relay Worker in Edinburgh this year. Relay is UCCF’s ten-month discipleship programme which gives recent graduates the chance to work alongside a CU and be discipled by a Staff Worker. Josh Oldfield is particularly working alongside Edinburgh CU’s theology students. Please pray for him, and all the TN staff, as they build relationships with the CUs and seek to build up Christian theology students.
Josh thinking about theology…
UCCF’s next gospel project, Uncover John, was launched at Forum. Uncover John consists of six seeker Bible studies in John’s Gospel designed to be used by Christian students on a one-to-one basis to introduce their friends to the person of Jesus. In order to encourage and equip theology students to make use of this resource, Edinburgh PhD student, Josh Coutts, has produced six companion studies for TN groups. These will equip Christian students with an understanding of the theological and historical issues in each of the Uncover John passages, and embolden them to step out in faith and read John’s Gospel with their non-Christian coursemates. Please pray for them as they do that!
Words for Life
Each year, UCCF runs a number of preachers’ training weekends known as Biblical Evangelism Conferences or Words for Life. Students are invited to attend and deliver an evangelistic talk to a small group on a given Bible passage, and then receive thorough feedback. These are ideal opportunities for theology students to test out gifts and calling to ministry, so please pray that we will be able to encourage students to come, and that God will place a sense of calling to serve the church in future ministry in many hearts.
The Edinburgh TN group leaders have recently realised how unscary it can be to run an evangelistic event in a theology department. On 4 November they ran an event specifically aimed at freshers, on the topic: ‘Can an academic theologian have personal faith in Jesus?’ Josh Oldfield spoke about the nature of Christian faith and evidence for the historical Jesus. Around 20 first-year students with no previous connection to the Christian Union came along, many of them non-Christians. Lots of good conversations were had afterwards, and the group leaders, Ian and Rachel, are now emboldened to go bigger and better for Christmas.
Christmas is always a really opportune time to run overtly evangelistic events in theology departments! A number of the groups will be offering mulled wine and mince pies to entice students to hear guest speakers. For example, the group at Nottingham have an event on 3 December called ‘Christmas: The Promised Presence of a Seemingly Absent God’. The hope is that these events will dovetail with Christian Union carol services and encourage non-Christian theology students along to what are some of the CUs’ biggest evangelistic events. Please pray for all the groups – for creative ideas, for boldness, and the work of the Spirit in hearts.
This first appeared in Friends of Theology Network – a free, termly newsletter for supporters of this work. To sign up to receive this go to: http://www.uccf.org.uk/supporter/sign-up/cu-friends
The Christmas season is looming! Well, almost… This might seem a little soon, but prompted by the release of the new John Lewis Christmas advert (mind those tears!) and an obsession with starting on the Christmas music early, we’ve been having a think about festive ideas for your Theology Network groups.
CU Carol Services
All around the country Christian Unions organise fantastic Christmas events – such as great carol services in co-operation with their student unions and other societies. As theologians in the Christian Union – get involved! Sing in the choir, bake mince pies or, if you would rather stick to your strengths, offer to do a reading from the bible (1 Timothy 4:13 anyone?)
Or, since the CU Carol Service is usually the biggest evangelistic event of the year, why not organise a pre-event event (if you know what I mean?!). Think mulled wine and mince pies, Christmas music and decorations, and have a speaker (the Carol Service speaker themselves? Or an evangelical lecturer?) give a short talk on ‘Christmas for theologians’. Hold it in a venue close to the church (the divinity department, a pub function room, a large flat) and when done have everyone walk to the Carol Service together!
It’s only November – but now is a great time to start organising. Get creative now by thinking of ways to share the gospel with theology/divinity departments. Previously, TN groups have hosted debates on the theology of the incarnation, on the virgin birth etc. It’s just a perfect opportunity to challenge other students on the historicity of Jesus’ life and the implications of those nativity events – case in point “you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”! (Matt.1:21)
If that sounds a little too formal, why not have a think about organising some smaller initiatives that will brighten up your course-mates’ Christmas? Give out candy canes or mince pies in your 9am lectures (you will, we are sure, attend these regularly anyway!), put on a hilarious, do-it-yourself nativity, host a short talk on the real meaning of Christmas, or write something on the same topic for your student newspaper. People love Christmas and they appreciate your generosity and Christmas spirit – they might even start asking questions as to why you love caring for them and why you get so excited around Christmas!
Finally, have a think about getting together as a group to revise for those pesky Christmas exams. Make a day of it, share some good food, pursue theological excellence, and invite your friends who aren’t Christians to join in!
Give your ideas in the comments below!
Know God better, love Jesus more, join the Christmas revolution!