The Australian Union Conference has launched a project that aims to reach university students outside of the church and provide support for Adventist students within secular universities. Disciple Focused Life Group Leadership is a four-year initiative that will place two young adults within chosen secular universities around Australia in an effort to set up life groups on campus.
According to statistics by Barna Group, 72 per cent of young people who attend church in Australia drop out of church life as they transition into university/young adulthood. The goal of this initiative is to stop Adventist young adults from leaving the church and to facilitate outreach to secular university students. Life Group leaders will have funding for the resources needed to facilitate life groups as well as training and support from mentors at each level, from local church to the South Pacific Division.
Pastor Jeffrey Parker, Youth Director for the Australian Union Conference, said “It is so exciting to see all of our Australian Conferences wanting to be a part of this Life Group Ministry proposal as it rolls out over 2023/24. All the conference administration teams see the need to move forward in this space and want to act fast to connect with both our own Adventist young adults and other university students that can be reached for Christ”.
The new project will not only provide an essential resource for conferences that want to get started, but it will also provide a boost to the ones already investing in it, such as North New South Wales (NNSW).
“I have seen many of our young adults slip away from church as they face university life. It is my belief that if we give them an opportunity to connect in a regular Life Group Setting, within the university itself, we will inspire them to continue their connection with Jesus Christ,” Pastor Parker said.
With Adventist Students on Campus (ASOC) clubs in three universities, the NNSW young adults department plans to expand into all seven campuses in its territory.
NNSW main ASOC club started in 2019 on the Newcastle University campus. Providing for the needs of the students and conducting frequent initiatives to connect with them, the group grew into a church plant and officially became a church company in September 2022, baptising more than 20 students so far.
Aiming to empower more young people to join the task force, the NNSW young adults department recently conducted its annual University Ministry Summit attended by university students, Bible workers and passionate lay people from all over Australia.
Linsday Birch, who is starting a new ASOC ministry at Griffith University (Queensland), found the event encouraging. “The summit answered many of my questions and helped me know my immediate next steps. It also gave me a framework and a greater vision to work towards,” she said.
At the summit, Ms Birch was inspired by the global impact of university ministry. “A key piece of information I learned was that in Australian universities, there are 1.6 million students, 30 per cent of which are international students, mostly coming from the 10/40 window. I saw how important Uni ministry can be for evangelising, equipping, and sending back front-line missionaries to the hardest-to-reach parts of the world,” she added.
NNSW young adults director Blair Lemke also believes in the great impact of this type of ministry. “Not only does university ministry have a global impact, but it is an opportunity to retain and engage Adventist youth who leave their home communities to attend university and may otherwise drift away,” said Mr Lemke.
The AUC is working on developing a new website sdauniconnect.com.au which will be online in mid-December. The website will give parents, grandparents, friends and university students the opportunity to inform where they’re studying and help them link up to other Adventist young adults in the area.