05 Aug Founding Just Love across UK Universities
Inspiring and Releasing Every Christian Student to Pursue the Biblical Call to Social Justice.
A few years ago, several students in Oxford grew frustrated by the inaction and lack of passion for justice that they saw around them – in light of the injustice they’d seen in the world, and the passion for justice they saw in the God of the Bible, this wasn’t good enough. So, Just Love was born, with a vision to inspire and release every Christian student to pursue the biblical call to social justice. We want every Christian student to be committed to social justice and doing something about it. In 2014 the movement grew beyond Oxford, and now students who share this vision are running Just Love groups in more than 10 cities around the country.
With much of our work being run by students who are also doing degrees, how can we be effective? Well, we can be effective in the short term – with high quality training, resourcing and support from staff, combined with the right partnerships with other charities and churches, we can release the talent and enthusiasm of students to achieve good output levels. In 2015 Just Love groups ran nearly 400 events, gave over 3000 volunteer hours in local communities, and raised over £12,000 for other charities. The focus of this has ranged from city to city – from BBQs for homeless people in Oxford and visits to elderly care homes in Bath, to eating just rice and beans for a week to raise money for Tearfund. Just Love Durham collected donations of 118,000 boxes of sanitary items for charities working with vulnerable women in the north-east and across Europe!
Having said that, it’s the long term where we think Just Love’s effectiveness really kicks in. We want to send people out of university with a lifelong passion for justice – and we believe that our graduates will be leaders and innovators in the charity sector, people who bring integrity and change to politics, generosity and social responsibility to business, who lead in the Church, the media – and all spheres of society. Not only that, but think of all the ethical consumer choices they’ll make, the projects they’ll volunteer for, and the amount they’ll give away – this year around 100 students graduated from Just Love groups – if we have encouraged each of them to be more generous to the extent that they’ll give away 1% more of their income – assuming an average annual income of £25,000, they’ll give away an extra £1 million during their lifetimes. Investing in this generation will really pay off.
We want Christian students to leave university feeling passionate about social justice, and equipped to engage with it – and seeing individuals journey towards that has been my favourite thing about working for Just Love. It has brought me great joy to see people who previously had thought very little about social justice, now call it a fundamental passion and commit to a lifelong pursuit of it. It has brought me great joy to see people who initially had little confidence in themselves, grow into inspiring leaders. I have met so many individuals with such remarkable potential – and I can’t wait to see where they end up in ten, twenty or thirty years.
I have learned so much through my involvement with Just Love, about all sorts of different justice issues, people and churches – but I thought of two key lessons that might be helpful for this Blessed to Give community of young adults exploring philanthropy and global issues. The two key lessons are the potential of people, and the power of vision.
I was talking to a leadership expert the other day about building a culture of leadership development into our organisation. He said that he believes everyone he meets has the potential to lead and influence, that they have been made by God for a purpose, with the gifts to achieve it. His role is simply to work out where they fit in, and encourage them and help them towards that. Everyone you meet will influence others and change lives – and you have the opportunity to help them believe in themselves, to help them find connections or ideas that they otherwise might not access. Each day you might have the opportunity to influence a future headteacher, a future politician, a future parent – how will you encourage them to reach their potential?
Secondly, the power of vision – it’s so easy to coast through our day to day life, not really believing that we can make a difference. But we can – in the Bible we hear of God’s plan to redeem all creation – the greatest vision of all – and we can have a part to play in it. We might be part of a generation that fights back against the injustices of our time. We might be part of a church that helps to end human trafficking. We might be part of a friendship group that chooses to stay and transform the town we grew up in. Once we can see and verbalise a change that we want to work towards, and commit to doing so with the people around us, we can feel so much more motivated, so much more determined, so much more purpose driven. What is the change you want to be a part of? What would it look like to see that realized? Who is going to take it on with you?
It might be a simple message, but if we start believing in others around us, and unite around a vision for change, I think that we can make a real difference!
Tomas Christmas studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. He is the founder of Just Love and now works as their National Coordinator.