A conversation with the University of East Anglia's Christian Union
We interviewed the University of East Anglia (UEA) Christian Union to find out more about evangelism in the student world. They ran Christianity Explored online as a follow-up for their events week, ‘REAL’.
What is the culture of the university?
UEA is a big hub for International Development students, and as a result seems to have a particular interest in social justice and global issues, which is common in many universities.
Students are open-minded, happy to talk about Christianity, and are sometimes genuinely interested. However, a common response during conversations is that they think Christianity is all about rules or that Christians are insensitive for suggesting that there is only one God.
What was it like running Christianity Explored online?
Running the course online did work well. Going into break-out rooms for discussions allowed for people to have more confidence in asking questions. There were remarkably few technical problems at the beginning but we soon got used to fixing these issues as they came up. Students are completely comfortable finding the event, logging in, knowing when/how to mute themselves due to the fact that most of their year has included lectures and seminars on Zoom.
It is harder to get to know people and see how they are engaging with the material. Informal conversations are unable to happen as easily as they would at in-person courses. You cannot ask more pressing, personal questions to an individual about their perspectives and beliefs in a breakout room because everyone else is listening in.
In terms of attendance, it made it easier for people to just switch on their computers and come. There were quite a few people who spontaneously turned up for a week or so, alongside the other regular attendees. Of course, it can be a lot harder to do follow-up because of the fact that relationships aren’t built as fast but we were encouraged by students in the CU who did one-to-ones between the sessions to have more personal conversations and build a stronger relationship.
What was the response from the course?
We had one attendee who joined the course after being invited by her friend in the CU. Halfway through the course, during a personal conversation, she said she wanted to become a Christian. During the final session, discussing what Jesus means by ‘the good news’, she gave an amazing response about how it’s the news that Jesus has died for us to take away our sins so we can have a personal relationship with God. She is now going along to her friend’s local church and we are continually praying that God will grow her in her faith.
Despite the difficulties of using Zoom, it was a joy to see the way that God continues to work.
Find out more about running a course at your Christian Union or local church by visiting the Christianity Explored and Life Explored pages.