Population: 8 million (2012)
Major religion: Christianity
Official languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh
IFES movement: Groupes Bibliques des Ecoles et Universités (GBEU), Vereinigte Bibelgruppen in Schule, Universität und Beruf (VBG)
Switzerland has slowly changed into a post-Christian country over the last decades. Religion in general is considered a matter of personal preference, and essentially private. Especially in a university context, being a Christian is looked upon as rather outdated and mildly exotic.
Switzerland has two IFES movements: GBEU and VBG.
- 4 universities and 1 polytechnic, with between one and four GBEU groups
- 26 specialist colleges, GBEU groups in 7
- 3 full-time, 11 part-time staff, many volunteers
- groups in most high schools; more than 25 groups, over 200 students
- largest group in Lausanne: more than 30 students
- smallest groups: 2 or 3 students in high schools where advertising is forbidden
GBEU has a great tradition and solid base, with a strong sense of unity despite the diversity of languages, cultures and denominations. The movement has recently seen a growth in the number of high school groups, with groups launched in new regions.
The recent organisation of a large evangelistic mission opened up new possibilities for evangelisation. However, a major challenge for the future is the growing restrictions when it comes to secularism. It becomes increasingly more difficult to book rooms in the universities, which might marginalise the groups.
View from the inside
Colin Donaldson is the General Secretary of GBEU. He says, ‘My enthusiasm is fed by seeing the quality of the students in our movement and their maturity that develops in Christ, as well as seeing those students who discover Christ for the first time.’
Colin is inspired by 2 Tim 4:1-2: ‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.’ He is also encouraged by the many pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders who say, ‘We are where we are today thanks to the GBEU.’
- for students to love God with all their heart, all their strength and their intelligence;
- for students to dare to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile environment.
- 6 universities and a growing number of tertiary institutions
- 7 mostly part-time staff workers for university groups
- 10 graduate groups
- 80 high school groups
- largest student group in Zurich (around 60)
- smallest group in Lucerne (7 members)
With student groups emerging in the new universities of applied sciences, staff are starting to work in a region rather than just in one location. This helps in bringing regional student groups closer together, as well as encouraging more student initiative and independence from staff workers.
Some student groups are rather small, partly because Christian students are often involved only in their churches. A major challenge is to build good partnerships between churches and the student movement in order for their ministries to better complement each other.
VBG is blessed with a very large number of graduates – some of whom were part of the student movement several decades ago – faithfully continuing to support VBG through prayer and finances.
View from the inside
Benedikt Walker is the former General Secretary of VBG. He says, ‘It is a privilege to work together with students who have so much energy and passion for what they do. What keeps me excited about my work is seeing them grow in their faith and their personalities.’ A favourite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:20: ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.’
- for good partnership between churches and the student movement;
- for students to realise that Christ is Lord not only of their emotions, but also of their everyday challenges, their studies and their intellect.