Belonging and Believing: University Ministry in Prague

By Elyse Baker on July 25, 2017

A note from the editor: The following article is part of a Gutenberg College initiative involving six sophomore students who researched and wrote on Serge’s work around the world.

Your college years.

What did those look like? Maybe you were the social type—college was an avenue for you to enjoy your life and meet new people.

Or maybe you fell in the studious category—you could be found late at night in the library, forming your thoughts into an essay.

Either way, if you enjoyed college, your enjoyment most likely came from the people who invested in you. Friends from your fraternity or sorority, from clubs, or from your college and career group at church. You enjoyed college because other people cared for you and made you feel like you belonged.

Serge staff Cody and Katy Janíček and their team are providing space for university students to feel like they belong – to feel like they’re part of a family – in a city that is described as one of most atheistic cities in the world. In Prague, Czech Republic, the Janíčeks are developing a university student ministry where they reach students for Christ, and equip them to serve, whether that be on their own campus or in a local church.

In partnership with Reformed University Fellowship, and alongside Faith Community Church – their local church in Prague – Cody and Katy form a space for these students to come and ask big questions. They act as a sounding board for them.

The Janíčeks know that university years can be a mess of questions that students have formed about the world and themselves. Students are trying to form a more complete worldview – a painful and emotional process. So, when students are struggling with questions of whether or not all knowledge is a human construction, or if they can ever know real truth, the Janíčeks want them to know they have caring people who are there for them.

The Janíčeks help students feel a sense of belonging in a number of ways, one of them being a Bible study, where they come together as a group, maybe share a dessert, and read through the Scripture, discussing how it’s applicable to their lives. Along with that, they also spend one-on-one time with the students, share meals together, have regular, relaxed hangout times, and go on retreats with them.

Because Cody and Katy’s goal is to make sure the students know they belong, they’ve seen encouraging things happen. Recently a student wrote them and said, “…I’ve never felt more welcomed and comfortable in a Bible study and church.”

During their winter retreat they went out to a cabin, explored and went hiking during the day, and had Bible studies during the evenings, Cody explained,

We are starting to see students identify with each other as part of something. We see students who have no Christian faith developing relationships with people from the church. Most students haven’t met a Christian before, so now they have friends in their lives who are faithful people – they’re not pushy, they’re not out to trick them into becoming Christians – they just care about them.

Cody and Katy’s focus is to make sure students know they are welcome and belong, and after they belong, then they can consider what it really means to believe.

The Janíčeks want to see students growing in the knowledge of God, they want to see them create a biblical world and life view. On a micro level, they want to see students fellowship and serve wherever they are. They want to see students grow in grace – examine sin’s role in their life, and continually put it to death. In the big picture, they want students to remain plugged into service and ministry even after they leave college.

Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who works mostly with young people right out of college, describes in her book The Defining Decade, that people have two major growth-periods during life. The first one takes place around three years old, and the second happens during a person’s twenties.

Cody and Katy’s ministry is helping college students define who they are during the most important decade of adulthood and what these students take away from this ministry will impact the rest of their lives.

 

Elyse Baker

About Elyse Baker

Elyse Baker is a sophomore at Gutenberg College in Eugene, Oregon. While she was in middle school, her family hosted three children through World Life Institute, giving Elyse a passion for people of all different religions and ethnicities. She enjoys reading, dancing, watching Studio Ghibli movies, being outdoors, and petting dogs in her free time.