what is a cu?
A Christian Union is a group of students who regularly meet in their place of study. They usually aren't part of any external organisation. The students may invite a guest speaker from a local church occasionally but it tends to be student run.
For those with a Christian faith it is a place to be encouraged in their relationship with God by coming together with others.
For people who aren't Christians, or aren't sure, it is a place to find out what Christianity is about in an informal setting. It may be less intimidating than going to church if your experience/idea of church is very traditional. You can meet people your own age and discover what they have found in Christianity. And make your own mind up by seeing for yourself.
I attended a Christian Union in Secondary school. It varied across the years as different people led it from a place where a lot of younger students came for free food and friendship to a place where I discussed struggling with believing in God's goodness because of personal pain with people who listened and cared and helped.
It was always a positive place, even if sometimes I didn't leave my normal group of friends at lunch to attend. I realised that for some students it was somewhere that accepted them and listened to them and made them feel valued, and that is why they went every week. To me this is a beautiful illustration of when Jesus said that when Christians love people like they should the world will see what God is like.
I am now part of a team leading a CU at a Sixth Form College. Last year I wasn't even a regular attender of the main meetings but I did go to cell groups. And there I found the realest friends I've made at college. They were honest about their struggles and I could be too. Our friendships were based on Grace: The understanding that all of us fall short of who we should be and what we should do. Standing before a perfect God with no excuse for our failure. But because of His great love He has shown us mercy by sending His Son to take our rightful punishment so that, if we trust in what He's done, admitting that our own efforts are useless, we can be saved.
So, because of that, there weren't expectations I had to meet, or a standard of 'good enough'; they knew they weren't good enough and didn't need me to be before extending the same kindness they received from God.
I would always come out of cell feeling stronger and more hopeful than I went in.
The main meetings, from the ones I did attend, were also good. I just found it harder to make strong friendships there because it was a bigger group.
I some CUs run Alpha courses. These are something I really recommend. I went on one last year with a strongly atheist friend who wanted to go for the debates. He was listened to and his questions taken seriously. In the videos he was presented with a clear explanation of what Christians believe and the evidence for it, as well as stories of people whose lives have been changed by God. The conversations afterwards on our table were open and productive. By the end of the course we all knew each other well and everyone had come to a conclusion. My friend was still an atheist, but he better understood the message of Christianity and knew clearly why he didn't believe it.
Other activities run by CUs:
-Bible studies: Reading a part of the Bible together and discussing it. What better way to see what the Christian God is really about than reading his own words?
-Talks by students or a guest speaker.
-Games and free food (very often)
-Grill a Christian: an event where people are invited to ask a panel of Christians questions about faith.
-Cell groups: smaller groups that meet outside of the main meeting time (e.g. in free periods) to make friends and get to know God together.
-Alpha course: a weekly video course based around a meal and discussion.
-And many others.
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