University Challenge: Three decades of student work

Date posted: 25/10/17

student work

All smiles at our student conference in 2000

The nature of our student work has evolved over the years, but it remains a key part of our mission to reach the world of sport for Christ. British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) runs competitions for more than 5,800 teams every year, while two thirds of students play sport at university.

Here, three former university group leaders share their memories with Back Pages editor Ed Mezzetti. They are rugby players Daf Meirion-Jones (Cambridge 1990-91, now senior pastor of Chessington Evangelical Church) and Owen Brown (Edinburgh 2003-05, now UCCF Wales Team Leader) and netballer Rosalie Brokenshire (Exeter 2008-09, now a full-time mum with two young boys).

student work

(from left: Owen Brown, Rosalie Brockenshire, Daf Meirion-Jones)

EM: What did being in a University Group look like in your day?

RB: We got support from Christians in Sport and started using the Pray Play Say material each week and the group just grew. It was really exciting. There was definitely an emphasis on prayer. I remember that being a big thing. We moved the meeting to a Wednesday morning, so we could really focus on the BUCS matches that afternoon. We also organised dodgeball and beach volleyball tournaments and quizzes to share the gospel.

OB: We had boys’ and girls’ prayer meetings on Monday nights and a Wednesday get together at 6pm before a lot of the team socials took place. Anyone who didn’t have one would pray for those who did and text them during the evening. We ran Christianity Explored as well.

DMJ: 15 to 25 of us, across a whole variety of sports, got together on a Monday evening to look at the Bible and pray for one another doing personal evangelism in our sports teams. Once a term we put on an evangelistic event, often a dinner with a speaker like Graham Daniels.  

EM: Can you share some of the encouragements?

DMJ: I came to faith through the Christians in Sport group! You saw people seeking to share Christ across a whole variety of different sports, people having the courage to invite their friends along. Our termly events would pretty much have 100 people. Seeing a handful of people profess faith in Christ, that’s the best encouragement there is.

student work

Rosalie with her Exeter University Netball Club teammates

RB: In the second year, we had a really big drive to get people to come to the new year conference. We got a big group together. When we came back, it felt like we were a tighter unit. Everyone had a bit more training and got the vision. It really felt like we were reaching the world of sport for Christ together.

OB: It was one of the first examples for me of all-of-life mission and it really had an impact. It often led to great conversations and we had 150 people at one dinner where Alex Harris [past Student Team Leader] came to speak. 14 or 15 years on, it’s good to see many of those people still going well in the Lord.

EM: What challenges did you face?

OB: One of the main things was trying to develop a Christian community where there was accountability. Because we were such a large group, it was harder to know each other so well.

DMJ: We always needed to keep an evangelistic focus, with prayer central, so it wouldn’t just become a self-serving time of hanging out with your mates. In university sport. There’s a whole world of post-match social life where, as Christians, sometimes we think we need to compromise ourselves in order for our friends to hear the gospel.

student work

A punting breakfast in Cambridge

RB: For us, there was the challenge to get things going at the start and then trying to disciple and lead people - that’s normal Christian life.

EM: Why is student work so important?

RB: Uni is make or break time for a lot of people. People often either forget their faith or really get stuck in. It’s a precious time. As students, you tend to get to know people a lot quicker. It’s such a time to grow in faith and the opportunities for evangelism are huge.

OB: I saw how open people were. That’s really stayed with me. You need to do things well and get fully involved in the life of the university. I have looked to develop that ever since. We’re in the world for the world.

DMJ: It’s an absolutely key time for discipling and evangelism. It’s often when the foundations of biblical understanding and teaching are put in place.

As our student work keeps growing, we would love to see Christian sportspeople in the top 50 BUCS universities and colleges being supported and reaching out to their teammates.

back pages - Spring 2016

Would you like to be kept up to date with all our latest news and resources? Sign up here to receive our printed or online communications.