Have you considered that God can use you and your small group to reach the nations? Yes, it can happen in the traditional ways as you have opportunities for summer mission trips or as you give a year and pray about a lifetime overseas after you graduate. But what if it could happen next week during your regular small group meeting? We are called to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20), and this doesn’t have to mean later in a land far, far away. It doesn’t even have to mean starting a special program that is beyond what you are doing right now. It could simply mean that God wants to use you and your small group to welcome the nations on your campus and show them His love. If you are wondering “how,” here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
How do I start? Start with prayer for the international students on your campus. You can usually find out what countries are represented by going to your university’s website. Invite your small group to pray with you that God would bring divine opportunities to meet and build relationships with international students. If you record what you prayed for, you can specifically celebrate when God answers these prayers.
How do I meet international students? Look around in your classes or around campus to see where international students are studying and eating. When you see someone who might be from another country, strike up a conversation. There may be ways that you can volunteer as a conversation partner through your international office or go to an event put on by an international organization. A beautiful friendship can start with just saying hello and inviting someone to have coffee or tea with you.
How do I invite an international friend to my small group? The goal is not primarily for them to join your group but to bring Jesus to them. You can start by introducing them to the other people in your small group. Maybe invite 2-3 small group members and your international friend to have lunch together or to go out and do something fun. Listen well to find out about your international friend’s background and culture, including whether they are interested and open to learning more about God or the Bible. Make sure to explain what a small group is so that they can decide whether they want to come or not. As you invite, let them know that they are welcome but that there is no pressure to attend.
How can I make my international friend feel welcome in the small group? You can value them by giving opportunities for them to share about their experiences and their culture. Depending on the student’s cultural background and personality, they may prefer to observe the first time before participating in discussion, or they may enjoy the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their own ideas. You will sometimes need to pause and explain new words and Christian beliefs. If they have time, you can offer to meet with them outside of the group ahead of time to discuss the Bible passage and let them ask questions. Having a set of Bibles with the same page numbers that everyone can use to find the verses can also help students that are not familiar with the Bible. If an international friend comes regularly, start giving them the same opportunity to take ownership of the group as you would the other group members. Ask them to host at their apartment or help bring a snack for everyone. They will feel more welcome as a contributing member than if they still feel like a guest after coming several times.
As you welcome the nations, continue to pray that God will give you opportunities to love and serve them and to have conversations that will encourage them toward Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, not us who does the work in people’s lives, and who knows? As other small groups on your campus watch what God does, you may be able to encourage others so that together every international student on every campus has the opportunity to be welcomed into the family of God.