Reaching the 18–22 Year Old Demographic has been a Key to Spiritual Generations
Tim Simpson, Auckland Navigators student staff, asks students at the beginning of every year, “Have you considered Jesus’ claims now that you’re an adult?”
Regardless of the decade, Navigators student teams challenge students to know Jesus whether they have never read the Bible or are Christians. From the very beginning of The Navigators’ work in New Zealand, there has been a major focus on university students. Joe Simmons came from the UK to Christchurch, full of faith, trusting God to use him in a city he did not know. Not waiting around for people to find him, he got on his bike and went in search of students.
Nowadays, hoody-clad Navigators staff and interns head out across Auckland, Canterbury, and Lincoln campuses to meet a new generation of students. While the issues these students face are different to those of other generations, groups of students still gather to read the Bible and discuss the claims of Jesus. They spend time in one-to-one discussions, challenged to apply Scripture to their lives and pray for God to use them to reach their peers.
Why university students? Because the age between 18-22 is when students begin to think and behave as independent adults. They ask: will they believe what their parents have taught them about God? Will they consider who Jesus is for the first time? What will they give their lives to?
Jonathan Peacey is a Canterbury University graduate. As he reflects on his time during the 1980s when he was involved with Lynton and Philippa Brocklehurst’s’ ministry, he says, “I look around and see people who didn’t have the intentional spiritual investment in their lives that I had. They don’t have the foundations built in my life when I was a part of Lynton and Philippa’s ministry.”
Two things stand out about the Brocklehursts’ ministry: Lynton’s strong gift in teaching, and Lynton and Philippa’s life-on-life investment in people. Their emphasis on reading and discussing the Scriptures set the foundation for students’ lives. Lynton and Philippa guided and encouraged them to deepen their roots in Christ, ground their faith in the Scriptures and become committed to the Great Commission. Being taught to study the Bible and memorise Scripture are a crucial part of spiritual growth, but they only go so far in developing lives. To students, it was as much who the Brocklehurst’s were and how they related as to what they taught.
John and Wendy Buchanan were involved with the Canterbury ministry in the 1980s. Wendy’s faith deepened through regular one-on-one meetings with Philippa. She says, “[Philippa] blew on my spark of spiritual life and helped it burn steadily.” Through opening their home, inviting people to live with them, and being open with their struggles and their faith, the Brocklehurst’s left an indelible impression on former students. Lynton reflects, “It comes down to love and being willing to lay down your life for people. There’s a simplicity to ministry we often miss.”