We asked the 'experts' for their thoughts on issues raised by 'Dear Bob'...
"I became a Christian at the age of 14 but looking back I don't think I ever truly understood what Jesus had done for me, and the amazing relationship I could have with him. By the age of 17 my walk was pretty rocky and I only went to church on a Sunday to please my mum.
When I started University my Pastors wife had urged me to join the CU. "Get yourself into the CU as soon as you can and surround yourself with good Christian friends" she said. Doing a fashion degree the guys and girls on my course were cool. It felt great to be surrounded with such interesting and creative people. On the day of the fresher's fair we walked around the hall mocking and laughing at the different clubs and societies up for offer. Walking past the Christian Union stand I felt a nudge from God to go and sign up. Just then one of the girl in my group made a sly comment about Christian 'geeks', which started everyone off laughing. I walked past the stand and didn't have the guts to turn back.
The next three years were a concoction of drink, drugs, parties and sex. The once innocent 17 year old who had never even smoked a cigarette was now a fully fledged party animal. In my final year, after working alongside many fashion designers on their shows in London and living the life that this career offered I realised what I mess I was. I was 21, taking copious amounts of cocaine and living life to the full, well the 'worlds' view of it anyway. I had lost all my self worth, had no respect for anyone and had no relationship what so ever with my Father in heaven. I got on my knees and told God how sorry I was. I told him I wanted to start again, to live life to the full, his way.
From that day on I've lived my life for Him. He's blessed me with a fantastic job, a gorgeous man and restored my relationship with my family. Although Jude in Dear Bob was going through so much questioning about the reality of God during her time at Uni, she still had the guts to join the CU and surrounded herself with great people. Her friends, although she didn't realise it at the time, helped her through her struggles and enabled her to finally see the truth. I look back on that day when I had the option of signing up for the CU, I probably would have been mocked by my (so called) mates but now I realise that their moment of teasing would have been so worth it.
If you are going away to Uni, I just want to urge you to get yourself into the CU and find a good church. The devil has a fantastic way of tempting you when you are weak. With good friends and a supportive church around you, you have less chance of tumbling down that slippery slope. "
Gemma Warrington (24) - Publisher and Editor of Jam Magazine
"Assuming you've accepted that there is a God and you've got all that squared up in your mind, you now want to work out what purpose that God has for you. Sometimes it's hard to see Gods plan in what happens. However when I look back into my past there are many things that made no sense at the time, now show God's plan so clearly!
I went to college to do a BTEC in Computing. I completed the first year with reasonable grades, and I had become very involved in the Christian Union at the college. In my second year I felt that God was telling me to do more work with the Christian Union and the Evangelist who was working in the college. Add to that I was getting more fed up with my course. The lectures often consisted of sitting down, being given a hand out and then the lecturer read through it. Very exciting! I skipped lectures, and ended up spending most of my time witnessing with a group from the C.U.
As time went on I decided to quit the course and got more involved with youth work. Doing a series of school assemblies was something that I started to do. What I couldn't understand was why God was clearly directing me towards the schools and youth work and not to complete my studies. I really couldn't work it out. There were a number of teams operating doing school assemblies in our area, and it was decided that we should get together for some training. So that is what happened.
I went to the course and was assigned to a group of people who I had never met. Our group worked together on a script and it was obvious that myself and one of the female group members had "chemistry". After the training sessions had ended I wanted to see her again, so I did. I started going to the youth club that she went too, the church she went too and eventually I plucked up courage and asked her out.
Five and a half years later we have just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary! Through quitting college I got very involved in youth work, met my wife and have had thousands of other blessings.
Our culture tells us that to get anywhere we must have education, A' levels and degree's. Some people would say it is the most important. I would disagree. Following God with all your heart, no matter what he tells you to do. That is the most important! However it is not an excuse for laziness, while you are in college remember you're not working for the lecturers, or even yourself, but you are working for God!"
Robert Allwright - Co-Editor of Soteria Magazine (http://www.soteriamag.co.uk)
"I do not believe that the church always deals adequately enough with its young people who are leaving home. I think it is perhaps a segment of young people's work which is overlooked, because people don't like thinking about their young people leaving.
I think that the church could spend more time and resources making sure that their young people are supported, and that support structures are in place and are maintained when they have left home. Even though the church might not physically see the young people on a regular basis, it is still important to keep on encouraging the young people, and making sure that they know that there are people back home who care about them and who are praying for them.
The main reason why I think that it can be hard for young people who leave home, is that the support structures they have been used to for most of their lives such as the love and care of family, friends, church etc are no longer place. This means that they have to make new friends, and get support from new people. Also the actual process of living in a new place, a new house etc is a daunting process for most people.
The advice I would give to young people who have left home, or who are in the process of leaving home is that it is vital to have a healthy balance of old and new. It is very easy to get completely immersed in your new surroundings, new situation and new friends and subsequently loose links with the support you have received from home for most of your life. This can result in worsening relationships at home and a feeling of isolation if problems arise in your new surroundings, when you need to see a familiar face, or to hear the voice of a supportive friend. On the other hand, it is also important not to rely too heavily on your friends and family at home. If you do it can lead to you feeling isolated and lonely in your new location, as you haven't immersed yourself enough in your new situation, and made new friends, got involved with new stuff etc. This balance is not as hard to get as it might sound, and it is well worth the work."
Pete Barks (24) - full-time youth worker at St Georges Church, Somerset
"Does God exist? This subject is raised in Dear Bob and is relevant to every single person on the face of this planet! At some point or another every one of us needs to accept or reject the truth of Gods existence. However when we accept Jesus into our lives this does not mean that life is dandy - all is great - the world turns around in a crazy "Charlie has just inherited the fantastic chocolate factory" type way, the world is fine and forever more we believe in the existence of God. If you have ever doubted the existence of God you need to know that you are not alone in your thinking, "phew, huge sigh of relief!"
As we tackle the subject of the existence of God you are wise to remember how God spoke into your heart the day that you became a Christian. I bet when Moses had heaps of trouble leading the Children of Israel through the wilderness, his place of safety was remembering his Hollywood style meeting with God at the burning bush' event. Through the hard times recall your burning bush meeting with God because this is truth, this took place and happened this was your intimate experience with God. Never forget it!
One more point I would like to make before the curtains close and I am dragged off the stage. If you ever question the existence of God, if you start to doubt, do one simple thing look up! Look up at the beauty of the creation around you, the perfect order of creation, think about the amazing way that our bodies are created and work, something which man cannot do. If you actually look at the order, the detail, the nature and the beauty you will realise that it takes more faith to believe that this 'merely happened', rather than being moulded by the perfect hands of your father in Heaven."
Mark Bowness (23) - Director of wljw and publisher of 'thewalk' magazine
"When I left school I worked and qualified as a Dental Nurse. Altogether I was there for four and half years. Then I took a DTS (discipleship training school) on board the Anastasis which is a mercy ship which travels to underdeveloped countries to bring aid. I also did a nine month bible course with YWAM (youth with a mission) in Hawaii. In between I have worked in an oral surgery department within a hospital and worked in Debenhams just before starting uni.
I think that it's easier to come to Uni with a bit of experience of life and the world. I notice that a lot of Christian students struggle to keep up their Christian lifestyle, due to all the temptations of being a student. Mostly due to being the first time they've been away from home. This brings questions about what they really believe and how they themselves want to live their own life. This is without the pressure of family, friends and tradition. This can be a good time as it's important to have a faith of your own and not that you inherited. It also can be a confusing and lonely time. My hardest times have been when I've struggled with my faith and living the Christian life. However through those times God has taught me loads, and made my faith stronger.
I would advise Christian students to make good Christians friends who can support and uplift them. To get involved with a church and the Christian union at the university. To spend personal time with God reading your bible and praying, even when you don't feel like it. I do think it's also important to not to be in a 'Christian bubble' for God calls us to be in this world and not of it. To spend time with non-christians but to be wise and not compromise your beliefs."
Rach Lawson (24) - CU president at Uni of Gloucestershire, doing a BA in Theology and Religious Studies
"I think the biggest problems/issues students face are:
- money, or lack of it (debt)
Much of my work is pastoral. I see a lot of 'on the
Revd Keith Hitchman - a chaplain at the University
"Being a student today is a far cry from the halcyon days of full grants and no tuition fees. Students will find themselves graduating with debts of around £15,000 and struggling financially while they study. The student loan is swallowed up by rent and students without a sugar daddy can expect to work long hours in part-time work to keep their heads above water.
These new-found cashflow problems coupled with moving away from home, course problems; meeting new people and settling in can make university life (especially the start) the best and most daunting days of your life.
The National Union of Students (NUS) is a campaigning organisation that fights for a better deal for all its 5.1 million members. If you feel stressed when at university your first port of call should be your local students' union, where trained officers and members of staff are on hand to help."
National Union of Students
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