Supporting FOCUS...

*Edit* Comments re-opened

Jerome (BSJ-rom) wrote about some ideas I had here . As I promised I have some thoughts that clarify my position.

I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about FOCUS and it’s involvement with churches in Hobart. The problem as I see it is that often for a number of reasons FOCUS often struggles to get most students from generally sympathetic evangelical churches in Hobart.

As things currently operate student’s interests are divided. They are forced to often make calls between church and FOCUS or are simply too involved in their local church to have time for FOCUS. This is thrown in with the fact that students are busier (and sometimes more disorganised) than ever before with internet, blogging, facebook, and work commitments.

By way of addressing the problem I float the following idea. I propose Christian students of University age are set aside by local churches to work with the FOCUS ministry. They are freed up from responsibilities at church specifically so they are able to devote their time and opportunity to the work on campus.

The key with this view is to recognize the University campus as a mission field. University sees students placed in an environment that in terms of evangelistic opportunity is virtually unparalleled later in life. Students then work missionaries to their University culture. This doesn’t come without a cost (as Jerome points out) it would involve spending less time with friends and mates from church. But what missionary activity doesn’t cost. I’d also point out that this form of “missionary” activity is far cheaper than sending people overseas on mission (although a lot less glamorous).



John Dekker said... 8/10/2007 12:02 am  

Mike, this post reminded me why I was only a member of FOCUS for one year.

I think it's an appalling idea, though maybe it's the logical consequence of what you think FOCUS is, or should be.

It seems like it comes down to what you think students are at uni to do, and how FOCUS can help them do it. For example, are the students missionaries now, or are they training to be missionaries later on? And if they are missionaries now, is that in a sense any different to the identity of every Christian as a missionary?

And if every Christian is a missionary, why not get them to meet together every week and call it "church"?

Well, there are lots of other objections I have to the idea. We probably have radically different ideas of what the local church is and should be.

And in all seriousness, what's so special about uni? Why not take kids out of local churches when they reach grade 7?

But if we say that they wouldn't be mature enough, then I'd wonder whether uni students wouldn't fit into the same category. And if they're so busy blogging that they don't have time for church, then it strikes me that they would need more help and oversight from older Christians, rather than less.

Mikey Lynch said... 8/10/2007 8:54 am  

Woah boy! Let's wear DeBono's yellow hat before we go for the black hat!

I think you're driving too sharp a polarisation between your view and Jolly's, John.

If you build into Jolly's proposal all the cautions that preserve meaningful contact with local church, and appropriate emphasis on the uni student's study and future work/ministry etc etc, then you could implement Jolly's suggestions without being subject to the objections you raise.

John Dekker said... 8/10/2007 9:27 am  

Thesis - antithesis - synthesis, Mikey!

Your comment about the hats is a good one, and it raises the questions whether blog posts represent the end of the thinking process, or the beginning.

anthony said... 8/10/2007 11:01 am  

oh. i was just going to say that going overseas on mission is not glamorous.

Taz said... 8/10/2007 12:14 pm  

Maybe your suggestions shouldn't be the be-all and end-all, Mike? There are quite a few people who are at Uni to study, and FOCUS is an opportunity to hook up with a Christian group while there once a week.

If someone wants to focus their ministry on FOCUS while at Uni, that should be their choice and the church should be willing to set them aside if they so wish. But there are also those who just want to come along to FOCUS meetings, and in that case to say that "Christian students of University age are set aside by local churches to work with the FOCUS ministry" seems far too all-encompassing.

So to pretty much wrap up: shouldn't it be the individual's (after consultation with their church and FOCUS) own choice?

mike said... 8/10/2007 12:46 pm  

John I'd say the same about your comments particularly on this blog.

mike said... 8/10/2007 12:55 pm  

John let me also say I'm not particularly clear on what exactly your problem is. You seem to have long seated problem with FOCUS although you are unclear on what it is.

Your post is full of empty rhetoric which shows a reactionary response rather than thoughtful one. Suffice to say I have spent years thinking about FOCUS and how is would and should work. Now I'm disabling comments for a bit while we all cool down and think for a bit.

mike said... 8/11/2007 12:34 pm  

Re-opened. I'll post a response to the above criticisms soon.

Alan said... 8/11/2007 8:38 pm  

"By way of addressing the problem I float the following idea"

Taz, this I don't think IS the be-all end-all.. The reason why he posted it AND had comments happening is so the idea could be discussed..
and as a result Mike really should (and in most cases is) prepared for such discussion.

to John, Mike was not (well the way I read it) suggesting we all leave our churches and spend out time sitting around the uni campus on a Sunday (when naturally all of Uni will be there..?), but read more as: "Local churches, you have a willing servant in a local community crying out for Christ, Will you support them to be in that environment preaching the Gospel"
Of course not all focus students will be there to preach the gospel, but instead to grow as Christians.
But part of our walk is serving Christ, and living a Christ filled life, and what can be more important in a uni environment to shine Christ's light?
What evangelistic students need is support from their local community to best fulfil the role that God has for them..
In this pitch, Mike suggests that those students with a heart for evangelising their local community seek support from their church, and head into ministry at University.
And he is right in saying that comes as a sacrifice.
I try to evangelise a bit at university, and sometimes that does cause me not to be able to hang so much with my other Christian mates..
In being part of focus, or even the greater body of Christ, we are accepting our role in the world, to serve the Lord, and if that means we serve the Lord at University, we do that with grateful hearts, knowing that God has a plan for our ministry..
I am glad that God in his own way got me involved in focus.. without Gods grace acting through Focus, I would be dead in my sin.

CraigS said... 8/12/2007 12:02 am  

Woah boy! Let's wear DeBono's yellow hat before we go for the black hat!

My goodness - someone else in Australia has read de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" !!!

Jonny said... 8/12/2007 1:08 am  

John Dekker: The students can be missionaries now if they have enough faith and maturity, which is not different to any other Christian. Christian students often meet at their established church on a sunday. Short of taking people to hell and back, uni is the best place I have seen to teach normal people the bible. It is a special opportunity.

Mike is not surgesting students don't attend their church. He maybe saying they should be freed from the flower roster so they have more time in the week to mix with other students.

But you know all of this so grow up.

Am I not allowed to talk about the bible to friends in the workplace because I am not a trained "missionary"? Going to uni is like a job but alot easier, with more oportunities to make of it what you will.

John Dekker said... 8/12/2007 7:46 am  

First of all, since I have also been thinking about this for years, I'm a bit surprised that my comment was labelled a reactionary response. I didn't think it was empty rhetoric.

Now that people have been qualifying things for Mike ("he was not suggesting we all leave our churches"), I do have to say that the proposal still minimises the local church. Why do we have FOCUS at all? Why don't the local churces just do mission on campus? Which raises the larger question of parachurch organisations. And I am sceptical of any proposal that pulls people from local churches into parachurches.

Jonny: uni is the best place I have seen to teach normal people the bible

Well, I don't believe this at all. I assume this is your own experience - do you have any other reasons for this claim?

John Dekker said... 8/12/2007 7:47 am  

And Jonny, play the idea, and not the man.

Renae said... 8/12/2007 10:26 am  

An idea you might like to think about: Having spent nearly 3 years at Focus, my first one really was just that, to grow as a Christian at uni and meet up with like-minded people. In second and third years, however, I moved from that stance to having a desire to be involved. In the end I was, and still am, more involved at Focus than my own church.

Clearly some people remain at the stage of just wanting to go along to a Christian group once a week, and are more actively involved in their own church. The minority go further and make it their main ministry.

I've wondered for a long time why so many Christians don't bother going to Focus. But the answer seems to be that you really can only fully devote yourself to one area of "mission" (or ministry?) and for these people the place for them to be effective is in their church. For other people this place is Focus.

And as for the university as a mission field, there are many Christians that I know of (myself included) who can testify that uni was the time where they recomitted themselves to following and living for God. Focus is instrumental for this reason, cos it's there when people make that decision.

I'm not sure whose side of the argument I'm supporting here, but it's a case in point that Focus is, to a number of people, their biggest mission field, and therefore something they're willing to devote a lot of their time and prayer to.

simone said... 8/12/2007 1:03 pm  

As a long time, active supporter of AFES and an involved member of my local church, I understand both sides of this argument.

I think to some extent it is useless asking churches to release students for campus work. Churches are always going to need sunday school teachers etc etc and if students catch the vision of the church and stick their hands up for these jobs they will be given to them.

I think campus leaders need to work hard to promote a clearer vision if they want students to see the benefit of throwing themselves primarily into campus work. You can't blame churches if students feel more drawn to church ministry than to uni ministry. All it means is that the churches are doing their job well.

If one of our students asked us to be released from some church responsibilities in order to do uni ministry, we'd say go for it, with our blessings. But to tell uni aged congregation members to stop church stuff in order to pursue a campus ministry that they aren't already passionate about?? I don't think so!

mike said... 8/12/2007 1:44 pm  

I made it abundantly clear in my second post on this topic that I'm not after unwilling students. It would stupid and counter productive. Ideally sending students to University ministry would be part of the church culture and therefore be catered for and owned by the congregation and students.

Jonny said... 8/12/2007 3:12 pm  

John: I have worked in a factory environment for a while. There are lots of people walking around in all directions. They may say hi in passing or say something about the weather. There is no time for a deep and meaningfull. The boss would tell you to stop talking and start working. If a co-worker is interested the best bet is getting them along to a church thing. But how often does this happen? Almost never.

Lots of people walking around uni also, but no boss. They can chat for hours. They are even interested in religion, as they are taking 1st year philosophy. They just moved away from their parents and they are sorting out lots of things. Open to many options.

Lots of people in the mall also. But the ones with half a brain have to finnish lunch and get back to work. They are no longer at uni, they are in the world and have a thick shell around them.

The most effective place for deep and meaningfull conversations with non-christians is at uni.

Sam and Mikes ministry is more efficient than sending a chaplin from every single Hobart church in my opinion.

DanielS said... 8/12/2007 4:21 pm  

Another way to see it is that all through life there are three "places" where you do ministry - home/family, work/study, church. All through life you need to balance these three ministries - and there's no better place/time to learn this than early on whilst you're at Uni.

One of the great outcomes of involvements in Uni ministry is that students are trained to continue in gospel ministry in their local churches, workplaces and families - leading to a lifetime of faithful service.

BSJ-rom said... 8/12/2007 5:31 pm  

As a splitter - involved in both my local church in music, children's ministry and pew warming and in the FOCUS ministry as pew warmer and helperouterer - I see both ministries as of vital importance, though to explain exactly why, is difficult.

Having spoken a reasonable amount to Mike, I was getting the impression that he WAS suggesting that people attend FOCUS as opposed to their local church, and do this for the course of their degree. Mike, please clarify this.

A couple of reasons why the Uni ministry of vital importance is that if the ministry is not organised, it is a shambles. Our international brothers and sisters really do see the benefits of the work. It's a great opportunity to get more Gospel teaching, to meet other Christians, to be challenged to think and engage with the community.

But it seems to me that it is often university students who are the ones that drive the local churches in areas such as youth/children ministries and music, not to mention giving preachers people to preach to. To rip these people out of the churches seems to be like pulling out vital organs from the church.

Interestingly, I have always rejected requests to join the FOCUS committee. This has been because I know that it is just one too many things for me to be involved in. I know lots of others who have said that they would join the committee, but then did nothing, much to the chagrain of the FOCUS leadership. I didn't want to be like this, but I have also made it abundantly clear that I will support FOCUS, particularly with my time, whenever I can (provided I don't forget!).

I think you might be getting a bit petty if you're saying that you don't want to support uni ministries because you're worried that the uni ministry might take over your life. There are enough scriptures to quote at yourself to give you an idea of how to balance your time and how you should approach what you're doing.

mike said... 8/13/2007 3:52 pm  

Perhaps part of the difficulty you feel is partly FOCUS not being clear on it’s goals and aspirations. This is something we need to work to change.

To clarify further I wasn’t setting FOCUS against local churches but complementary to it. To apply my suggestion to your situation, you’d be released from duty at Sunday school in order to spend time working on the Uni campus. You’d be free to attend a weekly meeting at Kingston but beyond that all your time would be spent working at uni.

With regard to pulling vital organs out of churches this certainly doesn’t apply in the case of most churches I know (eg. Kingston). Pulling out a number of key members I believe would have the opposite effect allowing other members to step up to the plate and own the ministry.

I have great respect for your position on joining (or not joining) the FOCUS committee. Better to know your limits and say “no” than agree to do a ministry and do a poor job. If you have any other questions it might be better to discuss it in person.

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