There are always barriers to overcome when it comes to living on mission.
I talk to students every week where I ask them who they think Jesus is and maybe 1 in 10 will say he's the Son of God. Most students would say he's someone that lived a good life and often say they aren't even sure if they believe in God at all. If your wondering, wouldn't Irish students know who Jesus is because it's a predominantly Catholic country? Well, unfortunately that's not the case even though the education systems here require students to study the Bible. Religion is also a subject on college entrance exams (like the SAT) and our kids even pray in their schools! But, here in Ireland, it can appear that Jesus is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. One of the reasons for this is the lack of choice people have been given.
Last Spring, I had one of my more sobering conversations where I was talking to a student in Galway and just listening to him share about what it was like to feel like he had no choice with regards to faith. I could see the anger and frustration this had created in his spirit. No one likes to be told what to believe. God doesn't barge into someone's life. Jesus says he stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20) and waits for us to open the door.
For many Irish students, they've never felt the freedom to choose to keep the door shut, so they go through the motions of faith even though, secretly, they may not agree with it. For this reason, one of our highest values when communicating about what we do is that we want students to have the opportunity to "make up their own mind" about who Jesus is. This posture helps us to create a safe environment for students to ask their questions.
Another aspect of ministry is building trust with students. However, because we are so small, we can only build a handful of relationships with a limited amount of students. To address this trust barrier, we've found that people are much more open and honest online (just check your Facebook feed about the upcoming election). So, one of the tools we are learning to use more effectively to help us find students who want to discuss questions about faith and Jesus is social media.
I'll be attending a conference next Thursday called 3EX Digital to learn from industry leaders on how to better use digital marketing to help surface leads and generate engagement from students on social media platforms. This will be a key component in the national expansion plan we hope to implement this year to surface key students in Galway, Cork & Limerick.