United States (MNN) – When kids go off to college, they will face a lot of new ideas, come up against different worldviews, and have their own beliefs challenged. While this can sound scary, it’s also a great opportunity for Christians to solidify their beliefs.
Because the college environment is so peer-influenced, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is training Christians students to disciple their peers.
Lindsay Olesberg, a speaker recently hosted by InterVarsity, believes that campus ministries like InterVarsity have an extremely vital role in the strengthening of faith among Christian students. Their Bible studies also provide a safe place for people who don’t know Jesus to learn more about Him and maybe even put their trust in Him.
“College is a time where you’re wanting to ask big questions and to look into new things. And so, I find that for students that come out of Christian families, there’s a kind of openness,” Olesberg says.
Rather than viewing this openness as a falling away from the faith, she sees this as a time where students are making their faith their own. The fact is, it can be easy for kids growing up in a Christian home to go with the flow rather than pursue a personal relationship with Jesus. But they may not even realize it until they are in the company of those who don’t believe like them.
This is why campus ministry is so timely. It gives students a safe place to find answers to new questions they may be asking. In a peer-to-peer ministry setting, students get to interact with Scripture in a way they may never have before.
Olesberg explains, “Our primary emphasis is on finding missional students that love God and want to grow in reaching out, and then equipping them in how to share the Gospel with their friends, how to start Bible study groups. And what we find is that there’s a way in which students will engage with Scripture when they’re with a group of peers that’s different than they will with the kind of designated adult or youth group leader.”
Each Bible study conducted by InterVarsity students is designed to be both accessible and highly discovery-based. That means people with all levels of Bible knowledge can meet on a level field to talk about God. In this setting, students are encouraged to express curiosity and disagreement.
And in a discovery-based group, there are going to be a lot of questions. That’s why leaders of these Bible studies are taught how to answer questions using the Bible itself. The point is that despite questions and disagreements, Scripture is the focus and authority.
Olesberg says this approach is extremely impactful.
“Many students come in feeling like the Bible is kind this irrelevant, maybe dusty, archaic thing. And, there’s so much power in the word that when you get them in a safe environment where they feel comfortable enough to be able to ask honest questions and then have real debates with each other, looking at the text, Jesus shows up. And he meets people. And often it’s been their experiences of meeting God that then gives them that hunger to want to get more Scripture.”
What InterVarsity has found is that it is much more effective to have students interact with Scripture than it is to teach them Bible-based principles in a traditional student-teacher setting. As they study the Bible, they take God’s Word to heart and internalize biblical principles naturally.
What’s more, even those interacting with the Bible who don’t quite know Jesus yet have been impacted. Olesberg says that time and time again, these students take the principles they learned from a lesson, apply it to their life just to see what happens. And then? They meet God.
“All of our Bible studies end with some kind of a practical application and so we see that our students have these experiences with God where they take some kind of a risk, or they pray in some way, where they extend themselves in love and service, and they discover God in that. And we know that it’s because Jesus is the Good Shephard that’s out seeking the lost. He loves our youth more than any of us love them. And He’s seeking them.”
But this method of studying the Bible doesn’t have to be limited to InterVarsity and campus ministry. In fact, there’s a way for you to learn more about this method, and to apply it to youth—and adults—in your own life.
Olesberg says, for instance, if you’re working with a group of college-aged students at a church, consider this: “Invest in students that can lead students in Scripture. So, rather than you be the teacher, get your most eager, teachable members of your group and then take them through some training about how to lead their peers.”
Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.