Bringing faith to the campus

Practising faith together with others, spreading the gospel, and helping to shape the Church of tomorrow—that is what New Apostolic students in South Africa want. And that is the reason they have organised themselves into student societies.

In the mornings they go to university, in the afternoons they study, and in the evenings they get together with friends—a typical day in the life of a student. Faith and church are the province of evenings and weekends, and there is hardly any point of contact between faith and study. In order to change all of that, New Apostolic students in South Africa established the New Apostolic Student Society (NACSS).

A community of like-minded people

The New Apostolic Student Society is active at several universities and colleges across the country, and these groups are open to all New Apostolic students and alumni. And each group also has a minister of its own.

The goal of the NACSS is to bring the faith and the lives of the students into contact with one another. Students are encouraged to engage themselves actively in the work of God, not only in the universities, but rather also in their home congregations. According to the vision of the NACSS, “every student is to be capable of imparting the gospel to their classmates, to be a legible letter of Christ, and thereby serve the triune God”. The student society seeks to support the spiritual development of the students and strengthen their faith. It offers them both pastoral and emotional support, and also helps with questions affecting students in particular. Jessica is the chairperson of the NACSS at the University of Stellenbosch. The 28-year-old student explains how the society functions: “The NACSS facilitates contact between New Apostolic students who would otherwise hardly ever have become acquainted at such a large university. They find support in this community of like-minded people, encourage each other in their studies, and plan leisure activities together.”

“Through these activities and events, the NACSS aims to create communities where students can help each other grow both in their studies and in their faith,” says Jessica. In order to achieve this, they regularly offer mentoring programmes, book exchange clubs, social activities, but also prayer meetings and student choirs, to which all their fellow students are invited. The members not only bring their faith to the university, but also bring their know-how to bear in the Church, for example, by organising job fairs or faith seminars for young people in their congregations.

Working for the NACSS costs Jessica a lot of time alongside her studies because she has been chairperson of the society in Stellenbosch since 2020 and is therefore responsible for planning and implementing the activities. She had no idea how big this challenge would become. This was because she had hardly taken office when the COVID-19 pandemic struck South Africa and nothing could go as planned anymore. “We were no longer able to meet. Many students felt isolated. Although we were still able to move to a virtual space, it was difficult to motivate students to join us or participate,” relates Jessica.

Tradition and perspective

This form of fellowship has a long tradition in South Africa. There have been New Apostolic Student Societies there since the 1990s. At present, there are groups of this nature at the university in Stellenbosch, the University of the Western Cape and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Bellville, the University of Cape Town in Rondebosch (all in the Greater Cape Town Area), the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, and the North West University headquartered in Potchefstroom. And there are more coming soon. Recently the Church leadership mandated a project team to support the introduction of the NACSS concept in other colleges in South Africa.

Beyond that, the students are to be increasingly involved in the ongoing development of the Church. It was for this reason that District Apostle John Leslie Kriel met with a number of members of the NACSS at the University of the Free State in the Botanical Gardens in Bloemfontein on 7 March 2022. The objective of the meeting was to present the proposed plans and coordinate them with the vision of the District Apostle. District Apostle Kriel, in turn, presented his vision for a planned symposium: the students are to meet with skilled New Apostolic professionals and, together with them, develop concepts as to how the Church should align itself for the future. In order to make the Church capable of rising to the challenges of the future, the idea is to engage the students in the Church in accordance with their qualifications. In addition, the students are to develop ideas for motivating their New Apostolic classmates who are no longer actively engaged in the Church or who have distanced themselves from it.

A worthwhile commitment

Jessica regards her commitment as a positive thing: “As chairperson I have learned a great deal from others and have been able to able develop leadership capabilities. Above all, however, it is simply beautiful to know that we, as children of God, all strive for the same goal and support one another and pray for one another in the process. I also feel very grateful that I have been able to make so many good friendships in the NACSS.”

A longer version of this article originally appeared in issue 02/2022 of the New Apostolic Church magazine “spirit”.

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