Population: 10.7 million (2012)
Official language: Portuguese
Major religion: Roman Catholicism
IFES movement name: Grupo Bíblico Universitário (GBU)
Portugal is traditionally a Catholic country, with more than 80% or its population calling themselves Christians. However, as many other European countries, Portugal is abandoning Christian convictions and turning to secularism. Evangelical Christians make a very small minority and are sometimes perceived as belonging to a cult.
- 23 cities with tertiary institutions; 5 IFES established groups, 10 IFES pioneering groups and 8 IFES potential groups
- 2 full-time, 4 part-time, 22 volunteers
- small graduate ministry
- largest student group in Lisbon (80 to 100); smallest in Aveiro (10 to 15)
Although GBU saw many decades of growth, the last few years have been difficult: economic recession, the loss of several experienced staff (including the General Secretary) and the closure of several local groups.
But GBU did not see these challenges as cause for despair. Instead, it championed student initiative, letting God work through student leaders and recent graduates. These key individuals provide a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience for the many important decisions taken. As a result, many local groups have been reestablished, new part-time staff and volunteers appointed and more students have been reached with the gospel.
GBU would love to see students across Portugal draw near to Christ and live for Jesus in every area of their life: not just in their church or in the GBU, but in their studies, family life and leisure.
View from the Inside
Cátia Silva works part-time for GBU Portugal. She writes, ‘I consider my ministry to be essentially about people. In the case of student ministry, there is great opportunity to minister to people who are often alone and feeling lost in the university, a context that creates a lot of pressure and doubts. I feel called by God to minister to such people and help them spiritually through the words of the Bible and directed by the Holy Spirit’.
1 Peter 3:15 reflects the core of her ministry: ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’.
- for the staff workers, that God will assist them in their ministry;
- for wisdom from the Holy Spirit when it comes to strategy and decisions;
- for more and more transformed student lives;
- for financial support to keep the movement going.