Starting a school CU
Being in school is one of the hardest places to be a Christian in some ways. I remember back in my school days that it wasn’t a done thing to say you were a Christian. That’s where a Christian Union can be helpful. It can be a place to get encouragement and support as you seek to live a godly life in school. However, there is more to a CU than just helping the Christians in school to have support and care for each other.
If you’re at a school that doesn’t have a CU, and you’re thinking of setting one up then read on. If you’ve been asked to lead a CU, then read on. If you’re a parent, minister or youth leader and you want to know how you can help then read on!
What’s your aim?
Whenever you do anything you need to be clear of why you are doing it. For a CU there are three main things to aim for:
- To build up Christians
- To reach non-Christians
- To do both the above
All of these are good aims. The difficulty of achieving them is different in all three, however. For example, if you’re wanting to start a CU from scratch, and there are some Christians in your school, then the first aim is best to start with, because you can pray together and build each other up. If, however, if almost no other Christians are in your school then the second aim is probably best. It’ll take more work, and it will take a lot of dedication from the person setting it up, because you may be the only one unless you get help from teachers, parents or youth workers.
The last aim takes the most amount of effort, but it is, I think, the best one. It is how I try and run any group that I do. It’s a group that is helping to make mature disciples of Christ, but also reach out to the friends and peers of those disciples. That means you don’t have to change the group when one of the non-Christians becomes a believer, or you don’t need different groups running at different times.
What’s in a name?
Once you know what your aim is, you can start to think about the other things that go along with running a CU, like what do you call it? Historically, when I was at school, the gathering of the Christians was called a ‘Christian Union’. But if you’re aim is to reach out to non-Christians or to do a mix of both, then CU probably isn’t the best name! Many people now go for ‘Lunch Club’, or give their group a ‘cool’ name like ‘xplore’.
But you have to be clear that you are a Christian club. One thing to remember: in any of your publicity, you should make sure that you are clear what you are there for. If non-Christians come along just thinking that it’s a place to hang out and eat lunch without getting bullied, and then they’re confronted with a talk or study about Christianity, they might be put off. Be clear about who you are and what you do.
How about a game?
It’s not just about games, but the name of this section would fit nicely in my rhyming titles! But what do you do in a CU? Well, the answer will depend on what your aim is, but it can follow a similar pattern either way. The website www.festive.org.uk/ has got many resources for helping CUs in the FE or sixth-form colleges, but much can be used for those in Secondary Schools. One such resource is titled Help I’m a CU Leader: What to do at my CU. This is particularly helpful because it sets out how to organise a meeting and gives some ideas for what to do during the ‘main event’. Examples they give include Bible studies, Hot Potatoes, praying together, outreach, socials and testimonies.
What you do will depend on your aim. For example, if you meet at lunchtime, then do you want the guys to have lunch before they get to you, or are they allowed to eat in the room that you’re in? Do you want to have time to play a game? As for the main event, well there’s so much choice there. There’s Bible study books, Christianity Explored courses (Soul is great for older teens), Christian books like Awesome on the Inside or People that Jesus Met. You can do a series of ‘hot potatoes’ like sex, suffering, heaven, being good. The great thing is you don’t have to do it all yourself. There might be a Christian teacher at your school, you might have a youth worker who would be willing to come along and help, or your minister, or other people in your church.
But the key thing that should be done is bracketing it all in prayer. Asking for help from our heavenly Father is a great privilege, because we know that He hears and answers our prayers, and will give help and guidance with His Holy Spirit.
So if you are thinking of setting up a CU at your school, fantastic. Be sure to pray and pray hard. Get your churches praying for, and supporting you. If you’re a parent, or a church leader, then pray for your young people in schools and find a way to support them in their mission field.
Matt Ingle is a student at WEST and has worked for churches in youth ministry.
Here is a list of some of the resources that I have come across on running CUs:
- www.campxl.org/equipped.html This is a training weekend run near Worcester. They may run another one in the future.
- www.festive.org.uk/ This is a charity set up to help sixth-form and FE colleges, but has many good and helpful resources on the website.
- www.scriptureunion.org.uk/49490.id Schoolslive is a helpful resource. However, it is variable. It is good to use, but as with everything, wisdom is required in what you use from it.
- www.sandowncu.co.uk This school is already running a CU. The leaders (who are students at the school) would be happy for you to contact them.
- www.youthworkresource.com/schools-work/guide-to-setting-up-a-cu/ A helpful resource for setting up a CU.
The internet can be a really good place to get information but I would like to add a word of caution – for all the good stuff that there is out there, there is as much, if not more, stuff that is not that good or helpful, so a measure of wisdom should be used when looking for things, which is where a wise, older Christian can be helpful.
 Festive is a charity set up to help Christians who want to be involved in Further Education colleges and sixth forms, whether students, parents, staff, church workers or volunteers.