photo courtesy Dan Butz

Brave Students Put Their Stories on Facebook

College students use social media to talk about Jesus.

Hope Forrester

Everyone has a story. Why not share it?

It was this mindset that started an outreach movement on the campus of Florida State University, resulting in over 60 students posting their personal faith stories online.

“We wanted something that students could relate to,” said Sarah Jurkowski, a junior from Sarasota, Fla., and a student leader in FSU’s Cru movement. “And what can you relate to more than someone’s story?”

Sarah helped lead the outreach team that orchestrated the project, which later became known simply as “Backstory.”

The idea? Train students to share their faith stories in three minutes – life before Christ, how they came to know Christ, and life after Christ – and then challenge those students to film themselves telling their stories and post them to their Facebook pages.

The kick? The student leaders had to coordinate the project completely on their own while their Cru staff spent mandatory time away from campus raising financial support.

A Scary Idea

When Sarah and the rest of the outreach team first presented the idea to other student leaders, the feedback they received was disheartening. The thought of being vulnerable and sharing personal struggles on Facebook for potentially thousands of eyes to see was very scary for most students.

Annie Jaynes, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla., studying exercise science, said she feared that sharing her story would hurt people in her life, especially family members.

“I didn’t even think about it; I totally wrote it off,” she said. “I thought it was crazy and I did not want to do it.”

Despite resistance from students, the outreach team moved forward with Backstory. They set a “launch date” for when they wanted everyone to post their stories and ordered t-shirts for students to wear to promote the project. Sarah worked with Mikey Puckett, a junior from Orlando, Fla., to create training videos so students could learn how to share their stories and where to post them.

Mikey said they encouraged students to just be real with their stories, and most importantly, to incorporate the gospel.

“Explain how God became personal to you,” he said. “Show how He took what was dead and made it alive.”

Because motivation for Backstory was still low even after the training, the outreach leaders started to get anxious that no one would participate. But at the student leadership meeting two weeks before the launch date, the Holy Spirit began to move.

Sarah felt God tell her to read 2 Corinthians 4 to the other students. Verse 13 resonated in a powerful way: “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.”

Sarah reminded her peers that Jesus was calling them to speak about what He had done in their lives. Annie, who had written off Backstory, said the Holy Spirit shook her heart that night.

“I came to that meeting knowing I wasn’t going to do it, and I left knowing that I was. It was clearly from the Lord – His will, not mine,” Annie said.

Like Christmas Morning

February 22, 2013 was the launch date. Stories were posted on Facebook pages as well as FSU’s Cru website. Students said they woke up feeling like it was Christmas morning.

“Once students saw the number of people posting their testimonies, more and more decided to post as well,” Sarah said.

The response Backstory got was staggering.

Over 60 students posted their stories, and FSU’s Cru website received close to 4,100 views that week alone. Numerous students who posted their stories had Facebook friends contact them wanting to connect, ask questions, or learn how they could take faith steps of their own.

The Backstory project also brought genuineness to the FSU Cru community and stirred a real heart for evangelism in the students there.

“The real win was in the building of the faith of our students,” said Dan Butz, a Cru staff member on campus at FSU. “Our students have this sense of camaraderie now, because they took this step of faith and they did it together, without staff.”

Sarah said Backstory taught her that following Jesus is more about walking in a lifestyle that will challenge her rather than be comfortable for her. The good news, she said? God is so faithful.

“When we decide to take steps of faith in obedience, He’s going to come and He’s going to move!” she said.

Everyone has a story.

Why not share yours?

Watch the FSU Backstories here.

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