A student perspective on being part of a church in transitory seasons
Brydon Sundgren is a student leader at the University of Auckland and a student representative on TSCF’s board. Four years ago he left family and church connections in Wellington to begin university.
As a student, what are the biggest challenges to being involved in a church community?
Moving away from home and finding a new church community was a challenge; there are so many options. Two other challenges are time and transport. I’m involved in the worship ministry, but when it comes to small groups I tended to prioritise my involvement in TSCF groups. University is a season, and one I sow into whilst I am there. However I do aspire to have greater connection to a small group, not just the worship team I lead.
What challenges have you observed other students facing?
Many first-year students struggle to find a church community where they feel welcomed and belong. It’s also challenging to understand the differences between churches, such as their theological position. Church can be a social thing, or people may be drawn to a church because of the style of music. Working out what is important for your faith and finding a church that suits that takes time.
Committing to church involvement is another challenge. Students from out of town aren’t around for the whole year and sometimes go home at the weekend.
Has anything been particularly helpful in overcoming these?
- An active young adults community – people in the same stage of life to relate to and support each other.
- Reading up on what different churches believe and talking to friends who have grown up in different congregations. The last few years have been formative in confirming what I believe.
- Choosing a church, getting involved and sticking with it.
What should people who want to serve students in the context of their churches do practically?
Be welcoming and accepting of students. The first Sunday at my home church, a group of us visiting students were invited around to lunch with other students. That had a lasting effect.
Accommodate students. That may mean letting them try out their own thing as a small group. Be willing to mentor them if they are looking for it. Looking out for students – especially feeding us – works a treat. Hospitality is a big way of getting people welcomed into the community.
Be willing to lend a hand (e.g. in moving flats) or ask how we’re doing. Most students are living away from home so having people checking up on them makes a big difference.
What attitude and expectations should students bring to church involvement, especially those who aren’t in their “home” church during the uni year?
- Be willing to get involved.
- Church is there to support you. It’s for your benefit, as much as the community who will benefit from you being a part of their community.
- Search with an open mind for a church, ready to go where God leads you.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up or be noticed, just because you’re young.
- Set aside the time.
Personally, I have had the opportunity to use and grow in my gifts of music. I’ve been blessed to be a part of a group of young adults with whom I have been able to share some of the challenges and blessings of life.
The church community has supported me, providing care and love while I have been away from home. I have been challenged through the teaching, and have grown in my relationship with God and in the understanding of his ways. It has encouraged me to be bolder and to live evangelistically.