Since the 1930s Crusaders has been seeking to proclaim Jesus to the students of independent schools, to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for leadership. More recently CRU West has revived Crusaders’ presence in WA. CRU West staff worker Sheridan Raston brings us up to date.
The National Church Life Survey claims a phenomenal statistic, that 80% of adult Christians come to faith before they are 18. Therefore, it is the youth of our nation that warrant significant focus. However, the number of children and teenagers in our churches is decreasing and the world in which these kids live is significantly more difficult to navigate while respecting their faith than in years past. Christian students are a minority in Australian schools, where attitudes towards Christianity seem to have gone from indifference to hostility at a rapid pace. The need for young people to be supported in their faith is greater than ever; encouragement, equipping and nurturing all appear more vital than ever. And yet we hold on to the promise of Christ: “I will build my church”.
The earnest ambition of CRU West is to care for and provide opportunities to these students—especially in regard to faith development—in ways that they otherwise might not experience.
We want to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the students of Western Australian schools.
As such, we seek to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for a lifetime of servant leadership.
THE CRU WEST MINISTRY
CRU West is a relatively new initiative of CRU Australia. The Crusader Union of Australia (now known as CRU) was founded in 1930 by the Reverend Dr. Howard Guinness. Dr Guinness was a visionary who had set up Christian ministries in universities across the world. When he came to Australia, he was surprised to see few strong Christians in universities. He saw the necessity to establish school-based ministries as a platform for developing faith early, to see young Christians founded in their faith through school, into university and beyond. He established voluntary groups in schools and camp ministries as a key way of achieving this. Thus, in 1930, CRU saw its first four school groups begin along with the very first holiday camp. CRU has experienced significant growth over the years, now working in hundreds of schools and running hundreds of school and holiday camps in NSW and the ACT. We believe this ministry has met a real need and God has been at work through the ministry of CRU, and we are praying for the same long term fruit in WA.
CRU West helps to establish and support voluntary lunchtime groups in primary and high schools across WA. These groups offer students the chance to read the Bible and pray together, providing a space for their faith to grow. We also run camps for upper primary and high schoolers in the holidays in the form of year 12 study camps, Christian leadership camps and activity camps. Students from a variety of schools spend a week away, are invested into and are immersed in a positive community where they are served, mentored and trained by a group of Christian volunteers. Through these two avenues— school groups and camps—CRU West creates an environment for students to develop spiritually, as they enjoy being part of a wider Christian family. Our hope is that Christian students will be encouraged in three ways: to own their faith; to flourish in their schools and to serve their churches and other ministries.
In God’s goodness, the impact has been substantial over the past three years.
We have gone from five groups in 2017 to over 20 in 2019.
We now run three camps where numbers have grown exponentially. But it is ultimately not a numbers game. The most important way of gauging success is through the individual lives of the students with whom we work and how we have seen God at work. Students have told us how they have come to faith or have grown in their faith. Rory Shiner, Senior Pastor of Providence Church Perth, says
“CRU West is a very exciting development on the school scene in Perth, addressing a real gap in the gospel ecosystem of our city. The history of this work in Australia has brought untold fruit for the gospel in seeing young men and women eternally impacted, and in producing gifted, well-trained and servant-hearted leaders for the next generation of Christian leadership.”7
While youth groups are vital for the teaching and equipping of Christians kids in our churches, they cannot go with their students into their playgrounds and classrooms which are like a missionary front line. That is where CRU West comes in. CRU West aims to meet youth where they are, in their schools. We want to see Christian communities in schools, where faith is encouraged and supported. One student said,
“CRU West has had a significant impact on my faith. I’ve been a camper on CRU West’s Spring Leadership Camp where we had inspiring Bible talks, discussion groups, prayer times and training in Christian leadership each day. I had the chance to connect with older Christian mentors, asking questions and seeking advice. I also made lots of new friends who I still keep I contact with today. This camp brought me so much closer to God and I felt greatly encouraged knowing that I had other Christians my age and mentors who were walking alongside me, even after camp finished. I also attend the weekly Bible study at my school, which is supported by CRU West. CRU provides resources for the Bible studies, which makes organising and facilities the group much easier, and keeps us focussed. The school environment makes it difficult to admit that I’m a Christian for fear of being teased or excluded, but knowing that I have other peers who share the same beliefs and purpose, as well as having CRU West supporting me, is encouraging and comforting, and helps me to stand firm.”
It is easy to become discouraged as our society seems to move further away from God, and to celebrate things God opposes. Through my work with CRU West, I have had the blessing of witnessing God at work amongst upper primary and high school students. As the challenges to being a Christian child in WA grow, God is pouring out his Spirit, breathing new life, and preparing the next generation of saints to do his work— that is really something to celebrate, to cherish and to ask God to do more of in 2020.