Ministering With International Students 101

A group of students smiling. Behind them are flags from many different nations.

Why minister with international students?   

  • God has given us the gift of the world at our doorstep. The world comes to us. We get to share Jesus with people who have little or no access to the good news back home! Not only that, but we will be changed by God in the process. 
  • We get a fresh perspective on who God is and gain a more holistic view of God. 
  • We also get to learn from bold evangelists who have experienced immense persecution and have thrived in their faith 
  • God calls us to share his love and his word with internationals. 


3 Things to Know

  1. Internationals prize community that is sincere, authentic, ongoing, and embedded in life - shared food and shared time and resources are essential to effective ISM 
  2. Most internationals who come are curious about Christianity, but at arm’s length - they are not necessarily curious at a personal level.  (Be open about your own faith, but respectful of theirs).  
  3. Many international student offices need volunteers to help with their international student orientation. This is a great time to meet new students and partner with the University by volunteering. 


3 Things to Avoid 

  1. Avoid word choice, jokes, images internationals may not get or mistaking language challenges with lack of intelligence.  English is typically not their heart language, and most internationals are concerned about their speaking. 
  2. Avoid judgment about something you don’t (yet) understand - Internationals are by definition from other cultures and some of their embedded beliefs and practices may cause dissonance or misunderstanding (e.g., women’s roles). (Consider consulting a trusted cultural “informant” from that culture). 
  3. A common mistake among well meaning Americans is to treat internationals only as guests - in one sense this is true, and hospitality is appropriate (and expected).  However, this easily slides into paternalism, so seek ways to be on each others’ “turf” - accept internationals’ offer to their apartment or home, or to shop together or some other activity that is in their world and not just your own. 


3 Things to Try 

  1. Invite international student Christians to leadership. They have a lot to offer. As you meet them, get to know them and hear their vision for campus.
  2. Prepare your chapter to welcome and engage international students by intentionally training for New Student Outreach and investing in friendship. 
  3. Have a set of open-ended questions at your fingertips.


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