We’re all creatures of habit, we opt for the way things have always been done – and hey, that makes sense, right? Because it works, it’s within our comfort zone and it’s easiest. This can be a huge temptation when we go about organising our CU calendar each year. We take what was done last year, and apply it to our situation. It worked for them, so it should work for us…right?
This year amidst Covid 19 restrictions, as we planned “RETHINK” (the Trinity College Dublin Mission week), we had to step back, pray, and consider how we may need to “rethink” our approaches. The good news of Jesus does not change, but in 2021 – maybe how we engage people with the gospel should. We wanted to share 3 helpful things we learned during our planning process this year.
1. Be forgetful
We need to forget what a typical Mission Week looks like! It is so tempting to directly transfer a traditional in–person Mission Week online. If we did this, it would probably involve running Zoom lunch bars and Zoom evening events, right? But our Covid 19 world is different, so our Mission Weeks should also look different!
We found it helpful to start at the very beginning, and look at the core vision and purpose of Mission Weeks – to give students the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus. How does this translate into our current context?
This year in particular had to be different, and not just that, it had to be engaging and relevant in order to stand out from the constant stream of media that bombards our everyday life. This could have been a straightforward “organise a few zooms and we’re sorted” plan, but we needed to realise that it isn’t always as simple as that. Rather we needed to find ways to engage with our culture, and respond to it in a way that it will respond back.
For example, we all know flyering can be exhausting and socially awkward, but this year our main method of “flyering” was through the likes and shares and personal invitations of our CU members, which as a result reached far more people online than we could have ever expected!
2. Know your audience
Commitment today is lower than ever! Early on, we were keen that people should be able to attend our mission week actively and passively – let me explain. It takes effort to attend an evening Zoom meeting – only a certain percentage of those interested in the event will actually take the time (or have the time) to attend. By exclusively running online events and nothing else, we would miss out on a huge demographic with students who just wouldn’t make it to a formalised Zoom call.
Therefore, it became clear that our Mission Week would not be purely a timetable of online events, but a stream of engaging content that people could watch, listen to and read in their own time. We called this the “passive” aspect to our week → intriguing student testimonies, engaging apologetics material, and just simple content that could be consumed whenever and wherever. We wanted an element of the week that people didn’t need to commit to – since commitment is so hard with our schedules being so unstructured during Covid!
The content is the same, but our way of communicating it is different! See our bonus section at the end where we share with you our ideas of how to reach our audience both actively and passively.
3. It’s not just one week
You’re not simply running a week of online events – you’re cultivating an atmosphere in CU which encourages students to be bold, continue engaging with friends and start conversations. If an online mission week is just something we “run” and expect people to watch, attend, share, like etc – we’ve really missed the point. It should really be a launchpad for something greater! The gospel is not just something we hear at Church every week, but rather an incredible hope and joy which overflows into every aspect of our lives.
We would like to challenge you with this!
“Are you focussing all your time in logistical preparations for the week as you are encouraging Christians on campus to keep meaningful contact with their friends, demonstrating God’s love to their friends in word and deed, and showing how they can use the mission week as an opportunity.”
Taking these points into the context of this strange year, God has truly blessed us all with the benefits technology brings us in our culture, connecting us to others and allowing us to continue our friendships with those who are further away. So how could we not use this gift to bring the gospel to our friends and family? It’s definitely daunting having to think of new ways to run a mission week, but 2 Corinthians 12:8–10 tells us that God uses us through our weaknesses and how through that we see his power. Ultimately we need to trust God, and trust that he can use our human limitations to assist in doing the will of God, sharing the gospel. (John 6:29)
Our world is changing, but the Gospel does not. Can a message told over 2000 years ago still be relevant in today’s society? That’s what we as Christians believe, and that’s what we as Christians dedicate our lives to doing, that is, sharing God’s message of hope and salvation through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus.