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Church Can Be A Little Bit Like Youth Group

One of the cool things that people seem to like about Student Soul is that, although we are a church, it reminds them a little bit of youth group! So if that’s what you’re looking for when you come to Dunedin for the first time, you know where to come!

Quite a lot of people have had good experiences during their high school years in church youth groups, in Dunedin and beyond. That includes those who have grown up in a church or Christian home but also lots of others. Friends, visitors, people who have attended social events, even sometimes people who are just curious to know more about Jesus and the way of faith.

These are places where faith grows and friendships bloom. It’s often a place where there is quite a bit of freedom to explore what it means to be church outside of the usual faith routines of your community.

For example, Sunday mornings are often the main location of worship for a church congregation, the main gathering, and it is usually a pretty well established thing. The rhythms and routines and the culture are all well established. In contrast, some thing like a youth group is a different time, possibly a different location, and it usally allows quite a bit of freedom in how you do things. For lots of young people, youth group is the first place in which you get a chance to experience some of the core things that church is about.

And what is it that church is about?

Well, it’s got to be where you have freedom to explore faith. There’s got to be space for questions and answers, there’s got to be some room to move as you grow in your knowledge and understanding. That’s something that happens in church.

It’s also a place where the bible comes into conversation with the culture we live in. You might see engaging the bible as like entering a whole new, rather strange world, that’s full of mystery, intrigue, and treasure. The bible has a lot to offer us, but it take creative focus, attention, and energy to start to listen for how God is speaking to us today. That’s something that church is about.

It’s a place where relationships get formed, where friendships are made, and where we learn to interact with people who are both like us and different than us. Because of this relational focus, it’s really important, especially for young people like students and young adults, but also for all who are young at heart :), to have quite organic spaces. Some structure can help faciliate connection between people, but it’s got to be pretty flexible. The space you have in your church needs to enable relationships to form. There’s got to be room for conversation. That’s how we get to know one another. So it is finding a balance between informality and structure.

And church should be a place for creativity, playfulness, and fun. Why? Because those things help us to bond together. Friends should laugh together. Maybe even enemies should laugh together… that might solve some problems. And growing in faith has a distinct sense of creativity about it. Following Jesus is a two-way endeavour, like prayer it requires not only God speaking and working but us responding. Which implies creative action. Church life should have space for this playfulness, for fun, because it allows us all personally and collectively to express and develop in our faith in unique ways.

I suppose those are not at all the definitive things that make a church a church. It’s probably not the definitive account of what happens in youth group either. But it’s interesting to reflect briefly on how something like a youth ministry might breathe fresh life into how we do church.

All that said, Student Soul is in fact a church community. We’ve been forming faith in students and young adults here in Dunedin since 2002. It’s a great place to be. Dunedin is a dynamic and vibrant city, University and Polytech life is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. We love the opportunity to connect with both NZ and international students who arrive in Ōtepoti Dunedin to study and learn, and to provide a space for connection, friendships, service and worship.

If you are new to Dunedin and are looking for a church home, we would love to welcome you. Come along to our Welcome to Dunedin Dinner! It’s 7pm on the 25th February, 2023, at George St Normal School Hall. Plan a visit and let us know you’re coming. It would be outstanding to welcome you and share a meal together as we kick off 2024 together!

God bless as you seek out a church home for your time in Dunedin, whether you are looking to go deeper in your faith or you are interested in exploring Christianity for the first time. Whoever you are, wherever you’re at, you’re welcome here at Student Soul.

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash

Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is the full-time minister of Student Soul. He received his Diploma in Ministry from the Knox Centre of Ministry and Leadership in December 2019, prior to which he graduated with a Bachelor of Theology from Otago University in 2017. He is a member of the Southern Presbytery, part of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Tom is also a writing and performing musician and you can keep up with his explorations at his website.

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