Students Initiatives in Christian Witness and Missions
A study of Christian Student Movements in Mahatma Gandhi University
Students are receptive to truth, and are mature enough to make wise decisions. Students, while they are still students, have increasing influence. Students are the cream of society. Today’s students are definitely the leaders of tomorrow in every field. When students decide to act, things happen; what students can do to a nation in its political and spiritual life has been experienced by the world. The Chinese students’ revolt at Tianemen Square in June 1983 and the protest by students of Kathmandu Valley against King Birendra of Nepal in 1990, turning the centuries old political system of the country upside down, are the best examples.
The first foreign missions in India and several countries of the world were begun by students while at university. For some of the denominational churches and many of the national and international organizations and movements, which had its beginning in the last century, students were the founders.
Though early initiatives of student ministry in India can be traced back to nineteenth century, growth and expansion of student ministry in India happened in the middle of the last century, i.e., about seventy years ago. The impact of student ministry had been felt very much in Indian missions. There was a growth on the number of student ministry organizations over the last decades, but recent times witnessed a decline in its visible impact on the campuses. There is a lot of setbacks and stagnation observed by the well-wishers in the life of the student ministry organizations. In this context, a comparative study of the student Christian organizations and their involvement on the students’ community are worthwhile.
The content of the paper:
This paper is based on a study done by the researcher nine years ago. The issues highlighted, continue to exist and the recommendations made are still relevant in spite of the passage of time. This paper discusses the beginning of early student Christian movements and their impact in missions in the world and India and focuses more on the social survey done at the selected colleges of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala through six selected students Christian organizations.
Limitation of the paper:
The survey aimed at finding out the students’ opinion about the movements. The major findings of the survey are discussed in the paper. The study on the content and method of communication done through qualitative content analysis and the investigation of administrative and other aspects of the student organizations are not dealt here in this paper.
EARLY STUDENT CHRISTIAN MOVEMENTS IN THE WORLD
It is a historic fact that there have been “Christian Unions” of basically the same type, though with various names, for at least four hundred years. The practice of forming Christian Unions for mutual edification, encouragement and missionary enterprise is a long standing characteristic of the student world.
1. Early Student Initiatives (Informal Gatherings)
University centers played an important role in the development of the Church. John Wycliffe and his fellow itinerant preachers were based in Oxford, England in the fourteenth century. Martin Luther Made his thrilling discovery of ‘Justification by Faith’ and prepared his 95 thesis, in the context of Biblical studies at the recently founded University in Wittenberg. In England, on the eve of the English Reformation, Thomas Bilney brought together Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridely and Hugh Latimer from Cambridge University to the While House Inn, near Queens’ College to read in secret from the Greek New Testament and the works of Luther. All four were to become prominent Reformers and suffered martyrdom for their faith. The ‘Holy Club’ which led to the Methodist Movement was formed by Charles Wesley in 1792, while he was studying at Oxford.
George Muller, the early; nineteenth century Brethren leader who became an inspiration to millions, recorded about the weekly prayer meeting held by eight Christian students through which he had his spiritual conversion.
2. Organized Students Groups Which led to Movements
The earliest record of an organized student-initiated Christian Union in the British University is to be found in the biographical notes of Henry Scougal, who died at the age of twenty-seven. He was the president of a student ‘Religious Society’ in Aberdeen, Scotland from 1665 to 1668. He had organized to bring together more “serious students for prayer, Bible Study and self examination, at times when their fellow students were devoting themselves to dissipation”.
Several ministers who later greatly influenced the religious life of Scotland came from this society. “It is also believed, on sufficient evidence that this little group served as the proto type for the “Prayer Societies” of eighteenth century Scotland” 
Other groups of similar type appeared in different countries. In Germany, the Pietistic leader Francke (1663-1727) was responsible for the emergence of a well established Bible study and missionary Movement in the University of Halle. In early 1700s Count Zinzendroff, (later a leader of the Moravian Missionary Movement) a student at the Paedagogium in Halle, formed a secret praying and evangelistic society named the ‘Order of the Grain Mustard Seed’. 
In America, student societies existed in Harvard with records dating back to 1706. These continued into the next century. Though the names and purpose varied, it included prayer, mutual edification and exhortation to moral life and philosophical and theological discussion. Dr. Clarence Shedd traces the early history of the college Christian unions in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. He mentions about Rev. Cotton Mather, the Boston Divine, being moved by the ‘licentiousness’ of the students of Harvard college to write in his diary (1716), “Is there nothing to be done for the miserable college? Yes, I will commend some thing unto the perusal of the more serious youths associated for piety there” 
A number of independent societies emerged there leading to the powerful students movements of the late nineteenth century.
In Scotland, records about student prayer societies are found in St. Andrews in 1733 and Edinburgh in the 1760s. The three first members could not find a place to meet and their first meeting place was up a tree. They continued to meet more systematically until 1807.
Around this period Thomas Chalmers was the professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of St. Andrews. A student by name Alexander Duff with his fellow students organized the St. Andrews University Missionary Society. When the University authorities discouraged this group and the similar groups, they organized in nearby town churches. Dr. Chalmers opened his own house to them and encouraged them. The group had produced more than one missionary for each session, two out of every hundred students. The first group of devoted men and women from this were well known pioneer missionaries around the world. Alexander Duff, the founder, himself became the first missionary sent overseas by the Church of Scotland. 
In 1824 Theological Missionary Association existed at Glasgow University. Several other theological and missionary societies also were present in the country. 
In Switzerland, when the protestant theological colleges were influenced by the eighteenth-century rationalism two Moravian pastors worked to organize ‘Collegia Peitatis’ similar to those which they have seen in Germany. A Youngman’s group, ‘Lediger Verein’ was formed in 1768. Twelve years later (1780), the members of this group were involved in the formation of ‘Deustsche- Christentums Gesellschaft’ from which the greater movement for founding Religious Tract Societies came. 
“In 1810 some of the theological students in Geneva revolted against the coldness and deadness of the rationalism of their teachers and founded the ‘Society of Friends”. 
This and similar groups in Lausanne were dissolved by the order of the Church authorities. But some of the students persisted quietly and later ‘Le Revell’ (the Revival) appeared, which had much spiritual influence in Switzerland and Netherlands.
3. National Movements
By the beginning of the nineteenth century more active student groups emerged which were more active in evangelism and mission and linking with other college unions. Intercollegiate groups expanded through the nation in USA, Holland, Netherlands, and Cambridge. These student Christian movements and its members became incidental in the formation of many organization which became national and international organizations which took the gospel across the boarders in the decades to follow.
The Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union (CICCU), Inter-collegiate YMCA and Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) were three student movement which grew nationally and spread worldwide. The World Student Federation (WSCF) and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) were two international movements which gained membership of similar organizations from several countries.
Samuel J. Mill, Luther Wishard, Sholto Douglas, C. T. Studd, D. L. Moody, Robert Wilder, John Forman, Samuel Zwemer, John Mott, and Howard Guinnes were some of the student pioneers of spiritual movements in Europe and America, many of whom had gone out to the rest of the world to spread their message and became incidental in the formation of student organizations and Christian Mission societies in India, Burma, Turkey, Syria, China, Japan, Egypt, Greece, Russia, Bohemia and several other parts of the world.
We have seen how committed students’ initiative for prayer and fellowship caught up the spirit and resulted in world missions. The spread of such movements was not just biological-splitting but expansion into different kinds and layers of mission efforts world wide. In the next session we are looking at the student movements in India, especially Kerala explore their initiatives in Evangelism and Missions.
STUDENT CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN INDIA
Student initiatives for Christian fellowship and mission had spread to India as early as the nineteenth century. The beginning of Student work in India can be traced back to 1856 when the first student YMCA was formed at Pasumalai, Madurai in the Tamil Nadu Theological College, founded by the American Mission. 
Student Christian Movement (SCM), Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI an IFES member organization), India Campus Crusade for Christ (ICCC) are the major inter-denominational and national student organizations in India. All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF), Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Students Movement (MGOCSM), Inter Collegiate Prayer Fellowship (ICPF), and Jesus Youth (JY) are the denominational movements began in Kerala which spread beyond the state boarders. The seven student organizations are briefly introduced below.
1. Student Christian Movement (SCM)
Student Christian Association of India and Ceylon was made after the ‘All India Student Conference’, held at Serampore in 1912.  Burma joined the Association in 1920, forming the Student Christian Association of India, Burma and Ceylon. The SCA of India, Burma and Ceylon and the Student YMCA joined together and the Student Christian Movement of India, Burma and Ceylon was formed in 1935. 
2. Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI)
An evangelical fellowship group was started in 1948 by a few students of Christian Medical College, Vellore. Another prayer meeting was started in Madras by 1949, to pray for the evangelization of students of India, officially formed the Inter-collegiate Evangelical Union (ICEU) of Madras in January 1951.  One of the students of Madras ICEU who joined the Government College of Technology (GCT), Coimbatore, started a prayer meeting at his hostel and the Coimbatore ICEU was formed in July 1952. These three groups met together at Katpadi, near Vellore and it led to the formation of Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI) in September 1954, as a national movement.
3. All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF)
The AICUF came into being in 1949 at the St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchi and the Catholic Bishop Conference of India recognized it as the Catholic University Movement for India. But the history of AICUF goes back to 1924 when a group of students at St. Joseph’s College joined together to deepen their faith, to find it intellectual dimensions and to its witness. Fr. P. Carty, S.J., guided this group which was called Catholic Young men’s Guild (CYMG). In 1929 the CYMG and the Malabar Catholic Youth League (MCYL) (Founded by Fr. Honore, S.J., in 1915) joined together and formed the Catholic Young men’s Federation (CYMF). In 1937, the South India Catholic University Federation (SICUF) was formed after the model of Pax Romana (International Movement of Catholic Students).CYMF was affiliated to it. In 1949 the SICUF became the All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF).
4. India Campus Crusade for Christ (ICCC)
Dr. Bill bright was a businessman and later a student in Fuller Theological Seminary, USA. In 1951, towards the end of his seminary, he and his wife Vonette were committing themselves “to live holy lives controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit; to be effective witness for Christ and to fulfill the Great Commission in our life time”. 
India Campus Crusade for Christ began in India in 1968, with the work of Thomas Abraham in the Campus of Maharajas College, Ernakulam, Kerala. Now ICCC has a total of 1,394 staff, out of which 400 are directly involved among the university students.
5. Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Students Movement (MGOCSM)
This movement is the organization of the college and university students of the Malankara Orthodox Church. It was founded at the Syrian Students’ Conference in 1907. The first annual students’ conference was started at the Balikamatom, Tirumoolapuram, Tiruvalla with a participation of 300 students.
6. Inter Collegiate Prayer Fellowship (ICPF)
ICPF was formed in 1980 by the Pentecostal members in UESI. “Starting a new student organization where Pentecostal doctrines could be openly taught” was a dream of Prof. Mathew P. Thomas and others as early as the middle of 1970. There was a Pentecostal student group functioning at Nilamel College. The first Pentecostal student camp was held at Charalkkunnu, co-coordinated by Mathew P. Thomas where 100 students attended. ICPF was born at the 1980 camp at Charalkkunnu and officially constituted by January 1981.  In 1982, there were prayer groups in forty colleges all over and the first staff worker, D. Joshua was appointed. By 1987 it started spreading into other states of the country.
7. Jesus Youth (JY)
Jesus Youth was not a formally constituted student organization with clearly defined aims and objectives. It started as a youth movement and not just for university students. But it is a movement which grew over the years rooted in the Catholic Charismatic movement. The campus ministry of JY has grown bigger than any other student Christian Organizations in Kerala. From 1982 onward the youth group known as the ‘First line’ began to gather every month from different part of Kerala on their own initiative to plan for outreaches, its aims, visions, programmes and strategies.
A youth conference attended by 2,000 young people was organized by the ‘First line’ in the international youth year, 1985. It was through the name of this conference; ‘Jesus Youth’ gained this name. The main challenge of the conference was ‘to be the gospel and to give gospel’. The emphasis of JY- ’87 was ‘Training for Proclamation’. These conferences gave way for planning organized outreaches for introducing Jesus effectively to the people in jails, slums, hospitals, waysides and to use art, music, games and fellowship in sharing the message of Christ.  In 1988, college ministry was started with ‘Campus Meet- 88’, gathering more than 1500 college students. Similar campus meets were organized in the following years.
We have seen the early historical development of Student Christian Organizations in the world and in India, especially in Kerala. What we see today as national and world wide movements and fellowships are the result of student initiatives which had its small beginning in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This spiritual thirst of committed students for growth, fellowship, evangelism and mission have changed the course of history of the Church and world Christian mission. The growth of the student movements in size and number also brought in theological diversions, giving way for the birth of new movements and denominational organizations in the world, in India, in Kerala and in Mahatma Gandhi University.
The next section focuses on the field study conducted through a social survey on the students’ opinion about their own movements, on the campuses of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala.
STUDENT OPINION ON THE STUDENT CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN MAHATMA GANDHI UNIVERSITY
A Social Survey
The Students Christian movements and their ministry on the campus, its impact on the Church and Christian mission are worth studying. As in the case of the world missions, the student ministry has developed several hundreds of leaders in the Church and missions in India. Changes in the academic courses, professional career and work situations in the country have affected the functioning of student organizations over the recent years.
Out of the seven student Christian Organizations listed in the earlier section, six organizations were selected for a comparative study. The aims and objectives as defined, the nature of the movement, the number of units/ prayer groups, the administration, financial policy, programs and productions or publications of each of the movement were analyzed. A qualitative and comparative study of the content and method of communication were done. A social survey on the opinion of students was also undertaken. The social survey was limited to selected colleges of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala.
This section of the paper deals with a comparative study of six selected student organizations based on the social survey.
Kerala State and the People
Mahatma Gandhi University (here after MGU) is in Kerala, the South West state of the country with an area of 39,000 sq.kms. and a population of 3 crores. Kerala is the most literate and densely populated state (747/ sq.kms.) in the country. 96% of the people speak Malayalam. Among the people of other languages, Tamil tops with 2.3%. There are a total of 423 caste groups and 10% of the population are scheduled castes (SC) belonging to 68 different caste groups. The scheduled tribals (ST) as listed by the government, tribes constitute 1% of the population in the state.
Hindus are the largest religious groups (57%) followed by the Muslims (23%) and the Christians (20%). Among the Christians, majority are Catholics (8.9%). The next denomination is Syrian Orthodox (6.7%) and the rest are other protestant and Pentecostal denominations.
Mahatma Gandhi University
During the period of the study, there were five universities in the state, including one agricultural University. There were about 300 institutions of higher education, affiliated to these universities. In addition, there were more than 500 parallel colleges and the total student population was more than 10 lakhs (1 million). 
MGU is in the south central part of the state of Kerala and was formed in 1983. The university had 92 colleges and spread into 4 districts out of 14 districts of the state. 
The Social Survey
A social survey was conducted to study to find out students’ opinion about the Christian organizations working on their campuses.
Eighteen colleges were selected as sample out of the ninety-two colleges of the University. All these eighteen colleges were institutions with at least one or two groups of student Christian organizations. The colleges were selected from cities, district head quarters and small towns from different geographical areas of the MGU for a fair representation of all the layers of the society.
The questionnaire had fifteen questions out of which 5 were demographic and the rest on the respondent’s relationship, involvement, opinion about different programmes and their suggestions for improvement of the movement. 201 completed questionnaires were received, processed, analyzed and cross- analyzed generally and individually on the basis of each organization. The summary of the major findings from the survey are briefly discussed below.
Summary of the Findings:
Majority of the participants were female (52%). Female representation were more in the denominational organizations (MGOCSM, ICPF and JY) where as more male participation was found among the interdenominational organizations (SCM, UESI and ICCC). This may be ascribed to the family and Church’s more support for the denominational organizations than to the interdenominational organizations.
2. Course of Study
The biggest number of respondents was Degree students (51.25%), Pre Degree/ Plus II (26.38%), Post Graduate (8.45%), Professional students (12.43%) and others (1.49%). The major group of respondents in all the organizations was degree students. UESI, ICCC and JY had a good representation of professional students while SCM and ICPF did not. All the organizations except SCM had some ministry among the professional students. SCM seemed to have no hold or work among the professional student population of the university.
3. Family Back ground
There were two questions on the family background of the respondents- occupation of the parents and average monthly income.
The distribution of respondents according to the occupation of the parents is given below:
Government job 28.5%
Private Job 13.4%
Self employed 4.5%
Daily wage worker 2.5%
Others 2 %
The overall as well as the organization wise representation were more from families of agriculture, business and government/private jobs. Generally, representation of students from the lower layer of the society and smaller income groups were meager. This reveals the failure of all the organizations in effectively reaching the students from lover economic sections of the society. It was also observed that most of the participants at the programmes of different organizations were from the upper middle class families. It is to be noted that majority of the students of ordinary colleges come from the lower middle class and lower class families.
4. Church Background
The biggest participation to the student movements are from the Orthodox and Mar Thoma/ Evangelical Church denominations.
The over all distribution of respondents according to their Church backgrounds is given below:
Mar Thoma/ Evangelical 23.4%
Roma/Syrian/Latin Catholic 20%
Church of South India 8%
Other faith 2%
Local Church 1%
No response 3.5%
For denominational based organizations, more than 75% of their participants were from their respective churches. Among the interdenominational organizations, SCM has 70% of their participants from the Mar Thoma Church. UESI has representation from all the Church backgrounds. ICCC has more participation by students from the Orthodox Church.
The picture of Christian population in the state may explain this. The Syrian Orthodox and all the Catholic denominations constitute 88% of the Christians in the state. All the other protestant churches including Pentecostals and other sects constitute 12%. Until recently it was seen that any evangelism and mission work were accepted and encouraged by the Protestants and among them any inter-denominational ministry was accepted by the Mar Thoma, CSI and St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India.
5. Actively Working Movements
The sixth question on the questionnaire was, “which is the most well known and actively working student Christian organization in your college?” The question was not to find out the popularity of the organization but to find out the students’ awareness about and attitude towards other organizations in their campus.
All the respondents from ICPF and JY backgrounds said that their own organization is the most well-known and active working organization on their campus. The responses were as follows:
Jesus Youth 100%
Analysis of the answers and information from the collected data, suggested the following:
a. Respondents from ICPF and JY believed that their organization is the actively working organization on their campus.
b. UESI and ICCC respondents were aware of other spiritual movements on their campuses and were positive in acknowledging that some other organizations were well known and active.
c. Most of the respondents from ICPF and JY were not aware of the presence of another spiritual movement on their campus.
d. Out of the 92 colleges of the university, any of the six organizations had regularly functioning groups in 53 colleges. Of this number, 38 colleges had groups of two or more organizations.
e. Many groups on campus meet in isolation and their interaction with members of other groups were poor.
6. People and means incidental in leading the students to a particular organization:
Friends in the college and senior friends were most influential in leading the students to the spiritual movement.
Distribution of the responses is given below:
Persons incidental Respondents ... Percentage
A friend in the college .. .. 29
A staff in the college .. .. 9
A senior friend .. .. 28
A staff worker of the organization .. 22
Priest/ Pastor .. .. 4
Parents/ Family members .. .. 4
Any other .. .. 1.5
Nobody .. .. 2.5
Persons incidental vs. Gender
Further cross analysis with the gender factor showed the following:
a. More female students were influenced by their friends in the college.
b. Only female respondents had any influence from their parents or family members.
c. None of the female students said that ‘nobody’ had influenced them to a movement.
d. None of the male members mentioned, parents as persons incidental and only male students had any respondents who said, they did not have anybody incidental in leading them to an organization.
Persons incidental Vs Organization
Looking at the organizations individually, the following observations are notable.
The most staff (staff worker of the organization) initiated organizations (in leading students to the groups) are ICCC and ICPF.
The most student/senior initiated organizations are UESI and SCM.
Parents were only incidental in the case of MGOCSM and JY.
Priests/ Pastors as incidental were mainly in the case of MGOCSM and ICPF.
7. Other means for relating with the organization
A good number of the respondents did not answer the question on other means incidental in leading them to the organization. The responses were as below:
Means/ Percentage of Respondents
Tracts, Books, Magazine .. 14%
Audio/ Video Cassettes .. 11%
Music Programmes .. .. 27%
Camps/ Retreats .. .. 10%
Group Meeting .. .. 4%
No response .. .. 34%
Other means Vs Organization
Organization wise analysis of the responses reveals the following:
a. Some movements did not have any music band or music ministry department (MGOCSM, SCM, and UESI). But respondents from that backgrounds mentioned music programme as other means of coming into contact with the movement.
b. Some movements had their own band ( ICPF- Angelos, ICCC- Heartbeats and JY- Rex Band). But none of the respondents from that background had mentioned about music programme as a means of coming into contact with the organization.
c. Only students from MGOCSM and ICPF mentioned about audio cassettes as means.
d. ICCC had released more than a score of audio albums of good music cassettes. UESI and JY also had released a few volumes of music audio cassettes. But none of the respondents from these three organizations made any mention of audio cassettes as a means for coming in contact with the organization.
e. Respondents from all the movements have, however, motioned tracts, books or magazines as other means incidental in leading them to the organization; it seemed, the print media is more useful and relevant than audio cassette medium. Songs and music had a good role in the programmes of the movement though mobile music troupes were not considered very effective.
8. Official role in the organization
As to the question of their official affiliation with their movement, 63 % of the respondents said, they were active members. 21% of the respondents had some official responsibility in the movement at the local, district or state level. 12% of the students who were participants in the organization did not conform themselves as members. Respondents from ICPF, ICCC and JY did not have any role in the state level administration of the movement.
9. Students’ Involvements in the programmes
The respondents’ involvements in the programmes of the movements are given below: (The rating is aggregates)
Involvement in the programmes/ Rating
a. Attend the meetings 149
b. Lead in singing and prayer 48
c. Preach/ lead studies or discussion 25
d. Other 1
e. No response 3
The organization wise analysis showed that members of SCM had more participation in the activities and programmes of the organization.
10. Purpose of attending the programmes of the organization
The students’ purpose of attending the programmes of the organization is given below:
Reason for attending the programmes / Rating
To learn new songs/ study Bible 134
To use my talents and gifts 31
To gain more friends 17
For an entertainment 16
For a change from loneliness etc. 9
Organization wise data shows the following observations
“Learn new songs/ study Bible”
ICPF and ICCC - 83%; SCM -36%
“For a change from loneliness etc.”
No respondents from MGOCM, ICPF, and JY mentioned that they attended the programmes “for a change from loneliness etc.”, whereas SCM, UESI and ICPF respondents had.
11. Programmes most liked
The most liked programme of the students were prayer meeting, followed by Bible Studies. There were only two choices to be made and the aggregate rating showed the same trend.
Programmes / Respondents- I Choice/ II Choice / Rating
Music .. 45 - 44 - 89
Prayer Meetings .. 80 - 29 - 109
Bible Study/ Group Discussion.. 46 - 50- 96
Conference/Camp/Retreats ... 28 - 18 - 46
Counseling ... 2 - 4 - 6
Magazines/ Books/ Literature .. 3- 3
Cassettes .. .. - 4 - 4
Total .. 201 - 152 - 353
Other Observations from the responses were:
Female respondents liked music programme more than Bible study/ group discussions.
The choices of the most liked programmes varied according to the course of study as well. The post-graduate and professional students, who have stayed more with the movement, differed very much from the junior members of the movement. The senior students liked Bible Studies and then prayer meeting more than other programmes.
12. Most effective programmes
Asked of the programme they think most effective, majority suggested Prayer meetings (34%). Other programmes according to the responses were, Bible Study/ Group Discussions (25%); Conference/ Camps/ Retreats (19%); Counseling (4%); Cassettes (1%).
A cross analysis of these two answers- most liked and most effective- with different variables suggest the following:
Though 45 respondents liked music programme the most, when asked of the most effective programme, only 14 said it is most effective.
Only 28 respondents liked conference/camp/retreat the most, but as the most effective programme, 38 chose the programme.
While more female students mentioned prayer meeting as the most effective, more male students opted Group discussion as the most effective programme.
Post graduate and professional students chose ‘Group discussions’ while the students from lower courses thought, prayer meeting as the most effective programme.
Interpersonal and group communication as the most effective medium of communication.
The church and the organizational background of the respondents had a good influence on their answers. While students from the denominational organizations had opted for more prayer meetings, respondents form the interdenominational organizational backgrounds opted for Bible Study/ Group discussions etc.
13. Personal benefits
“What are the benefits you got from attending the programmes of the organization?”. This was a multiple choice questions and the ranking of the responses are below:
a. Understood Christian mission and evangelism 129
b. Prayer and Bible study habits became regular 114
c. Relationship with others improved 104
d. Accepted Christ as my personal saviour 99
e. Got help in personal problems, burdens, tensions 68
f. Studies progressed 54
g. Other benefits 3
Accepting Jesus Christ as personal saviour:
Taking the organizations individually, respondents from ICPF and UESI, ranked accepting Christ as personal savior as the fourth rank. This suggests that most of the student members of ICPF and UESI had already accepted Christ as their saviour before coming in contact with the organization on their campus.
14. Suggestions for Improvement
The last question on the survey was open ended but marked for on the organizational aspects, as to the programmes and general suggestions.
There were a variety of suggestions which are grouped as below.
a. Suggestion for improvement in the organizational aspects (Rating)
i. Allow more student participation (23)
ii. Improve the communication to the members as well as others by utilizing all available medium of communication. (16)
iii. Maintain good relationship with other organization and with the public(14)
iv. Expand the work by mobilizing more people (7)
v. Have control over the expenditure (2)
b. Suggestions for improvement in the activities and programmes (Rating)
i. Programme should be more scripture-based. More prayer, worship and teaching are needed (42)
ii. All the regular programmes and special gatherings should be well organized, systematic and should observe strict time management (28)
iii. Human resources development should be included- Personality development, Skill development etc. (22)
iv. All programmes should be lively, interesting and attractive (16)
v. All programmes and activities should be according to the strategic aims of the organization/ movements (14)
vi. Students need more participation in the planning, conducting and evaluation of the programmes (13)
vii. Pilgrimage, picnic and tours should be arranged (7)
viii. More music, varieties and creativity (5)
ix. More value based programmes (2)
c. General Suggestion
i. More emphasis should be given to personal relationship and personal evangelism (21)
ii. Relate with the society more and respond to the needs of the students programme (11)
iii. More seniors should be available during the programmes/ Senior leadership should be increased (3)
iv. Seniors and student leaders should be role models and witnesses (2)
v. Programmes are too shallow, not practical too philosophical and fails to achieve the aims and objectives of the movement (2)
All the suggestions were also compared separately as to different organizational backgrounds.
Summary of the Findings
The major findings of the social survey are briefly given below:
1. Majority of the participants in the student movements came from middle class families.
2. More female participants were found in the regular meetings and programmes.
3. The interdenominational student movements (SCM, UESI, ICCC) had majority of their members from the Mar Thoma, St. Thomas Evangelical Orthodox and then CSI churches.
4. In the denominational student organizations (MGOCSM, ICPF, JY), 75 to 80% of their student memberships were from their respective church denominations.
5. Majority of the students of all the movements felt that theirs were the most well known and effectively working movement in their college. Most of them were not exposed to other movements whose work were present on their campuses.
6. Majority of the work of all the organizations were concentrated in some colleges. Out of the 92 colleges in the university, six organizations had a total of 136 regularly functioning groups in 53 colleges.
7. For majority of the students, persons incidental in leading them to the movement were their friends or senior friends in the college.
8. More staff initiative in leading a student to the movement was found in India Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) and Intercollegiate Prayer Fellowship (ICPF), and Mar Gregorios Orthodox Student Movement.
9. More senior initiative was seen in Student Christian Movement (SCM) and then Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI). More student initiative was found in Jesus Youth.
10. Female students had more influence form a student friend in the college or a senior friend than from staff workers of the movement. Influence from pastors, parents and family members were found more in female students, as to participating with the movement.
11. As other means, literature and books were found to be effective than audio or video cassettes.
12. A major portion of the students started attending the programmes of the movement to learn new songs or study Bible.
13. More students liked prayer meetings than Bible Study and Music programme. Pre- Degree and Degree students liked more prayer meetings while Post Graduate and Professional Students liked Group Discussions and Bible Study more.
14. For majority of the students, prayer meetings were the most effective programme. Next to it were Bible Study/ Group Discussions, and Camps and Retreats. Post Graduate and Professional students thought Bible Study/ Group Discussions were the most effective programme.
15. Music Cassettes and Music troops were found to be less effective.
16. Inter-personal and Group communications were identified as the most effective medium of communicating the gospel.
17. Many groups meet in isolation and their interaction with members of other movements were poor.
18. The interdenominational movements were more appealing to the varied needs of the students. Denominational movements drew membership considerably because of the church background.
19. For the effective work of the organization, the students suggested more of their participation in the administration, planning, conducting and evaluation of the programmes.
20. More scripture based programmes; teachings and worship were suggested for adding into the programmes.
21. Personality and skill development of the members were to be considered.
22. Activities and programmes were to be systematically planned and conducted with time management.
23. A good portion of the respondents were of the opinion that importance should be given to improve personal relationship and communication with the members and others outside the movement and with in the campus.
The field survey has brought out sincere feedback of the students about the organization or movement they participate in- their relationship with the movement, their involvement, the benefits and their opinion about various programmes of the movement and their suggestions for and critical comments about the organization. These feedbacks were not known to the leaders of the movement otherwise. The content and method of communication and other aspects of the organizations reveal much more facts as challenges for an effective and sustainable ministry among the university students.
SUMMARY AND SUGGESTIONS
We have discussed how the Christian ministry among the students has grown over the centuries. Student initiative has definitely changed the course of Church history through its mission. Many of the churches, mission movements and Christian societies today are the result of students’ faith initiatives of the previous centuries. The earlier intentions of students in initiating Christian unions in universities were for prayer, Bible study and mutual encouragement. Most of the student leaders of college Christian unions became pioneer missionaries in un-reached countries of the world.
We also have seen how different student movements came into being in India, Kerala and their work in Mahatma Gandhi University. The earlier movements here were interdenominational and the later ones, denominational.
They have many stories of achievements and growth. But it has resulted in divisions and denominationalism and political slants. All the student Christian movements are almost similar in aims and kinds of programmes, though their doctrinal bases differ.
The work, influence and existence of some of the old movements are stagnant or rather their influence on the decrease. The movements of later origin are growing by establishing new units.
The movements of later origin seem to be student wings of denominational churches which make them better members of their churches. The student initiative, participation and involvement are therefore very negligible or nominal. The content study showed that some organizations deal with mostly economic, political, social, environmental and gender related issues where as other movements were more concerned of the gospel. Individual and social, physical and spiritual, worship and practice; this-worldly and other-worldly approaches of salvation were not equally emphasized. None of the organizations were found to be holistic in the presentation of the gospel.
Keeping the basic faith and doctrines true to the unchanging word of God, and sticking to the aims and goals, the student movements have to communicate the gospel relevantly according to the fast changing patterns of the modern age. This should be more in its application, implication and formats of presentation, not neglecting the ‘old’ content or kinds of communication. There is an urge seen in some organizations for using more mass media and modern electronic media. The personal relationships and interpersonal communication are on the decrease.
The students were found to be the best communicators to the students and their influence on each other was more than anybody else. Only a student initiated and oriented ministry can make impacts among them. Though seniors and staff workers have an important role in the administration, students’ involvement and increased participation may bring more fruits. The students of today, especially the university students are tomorrow’s employees, employers, professionals, administrators and leaders of all the spheres of life of our nation. “When students decide to act, things happen”. So let us help students of the universities reach their student generation -with the holistic gospel so that they will be nation builders with integrity, truth and justice.
Based on the findings of the study, the researcher would like to make a few suggestions to the student movements.
1. All the suggestions made by the students in the social survey are to be considered seriously.
2. Students’ democratic involvement and participation in planning, decision making, implementing and evaluation of all the activities should be promoted. This should not be just at the programme level but at the leadership and administration of the movement or organization.
3. The individual, social, this-worldly and other-worldly dimensions of the gospel should be equally emphasized and students should be given chances to hear from all these perspectives. The content of the gospel message presented to them should have a holistic approach. The economic, political, social, ideological, psychological, environmental, gender and spiritual implications of the gospel should be equally emphasized.
4. The real needs and problems of the individual students should be understood and the content of the message and the programmes of the movement should be to meet these needs. Students should be given enough freedom and situations to express themselves.
5. Students in the campuses are the best potential communicators to the students who can influence in decision making and behavioral changes. Student initiative should be encouraged through training programmes, and staff workers and seniors can concentrate on expanding the work to the un-reached colleges by mentoring.
6. The different organizations, instead of competing to establish units in a few colleges, should make constant effort to reach out to the un-reached colleges which are more in number.
7. The kinds of programmes and the method of communication should be decided according to the desires and tastes of the students. These may vary according to the courses and other backgrounds of the students and from organization to organization and the church background of the students who participate.
8. Since the personal level communication is found to be most effective, more importance should be given to programmes which are based on interpersonal and group communication.
9. There should be efforts to build and maintain relationships with Churches, other student movements/ organizations and the society at large.
In the backdrop of the sudden changes in the academic and professional courses and career prospects, it is necessary that further researches could be done by each organization/ movement. Student life in the world today are more dynamic than ever before and it poses much challenges and the need for further research.
 The words, ‘movement(s) and organization(s) are used interchangeably throughout this paper
 Pete Lowman. The Days of His Power, Leicester, 1983, p.13
 Ibid., p.24
 Ibid., p.25
 Pete Lowman, Ibid., p.14
 Douglas Johnson, op.cit., p.24
 Pete Lowman, op.cit., p.15
 Clarence Shedd, Two Centuries of Student Christian Movements, New York, 1934. p.xvii
 Pete Lowman, op.cit., p.18
 Thomas Chalmers was later the founder of the Free Church of Scotland (1843) and Principal of the Free Church College, Edinburg.
 Douglas Johnson, op.cit., p.25
 Ruth Rouse, The World’s Student Christian Federation, London, 1948, quoted by Pete Lowman, op.cit., p.18
 Douglas Johnson, op.cit., p.29
 Ibid., p.30
 SCM Handbook, Bangalore, 1987, p.13
 Ibid., p.14
 Ibid., p. 15
 Spreading Flame, UESI, Madras, 1994, p.14
 Witness Unto Me, Madras, n.d., p.2
 Spreading Flame, op.cit., p.12
 Joye James , S. J., History of AICUF, the Rally. Vol. 66, NO.1, December 1989p. 12.67 lbid., p.13
 Bill Bright, Come Help Change the World, California, 1985 (Rvd. Ed.), pp.7-9
 Interview with Samson Kottur, ICCC, Bangalore, on 29th April 1997.
 Postal answer by D. Joshua dated 26 August 1997.
 V. V. Achenkunju, Kalalayangaliloodey (Malayalam), Collegiate Fisherman, 1990. p.10
 Sebastian Arikat (Ed), Oru Yuvajana Vismayathinte Katha (Malayalam), A collection of Articles on Jesus Youth, Ernakulam, n.d., pp.3-4
 Ibid., pp. 5-6
 Patrick Johnston, Operation World, Nigeria, 1993, pp.283-284
 ICPF, Collegiate Fisherman, 1980-1990, Souvenir, p.20
 Four districts: Alappuzha-1 College; Ernakulam- 36; Idukki- 10; Kottayam- 35 and Pathanamthitta- 10 colleges.
Philipose Vaidyar contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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