Do you remember the first time someone you respected invited you into a leadership position? How did you feel? Maybe you felt a sense of honor or flattery or possibly a sense of intimidation and incompetence. Most leaders don’t just jump into a position without encouragement and/or a personal invitation. When we think about the potential for international students to become leaders in our Chi Alpha groups, or as we say in XAi, to move them from friendship to leadership, it’s important to remember that they also need that same encouragement and invitation.
International students are coming to the U.S. as some of the brightest and best from their nations. They will be the future leaders and influencers in their countries when they return. Their experiences at universities in America are meant to prepare them for this. In the Kingdom of God, however, we see the strategy of God in bringing these future leaders to our campuses, not so they can get the best education, but so they can know Him (Acts 17:26-27)! As we share Christ with these international students, we need to see them as God does. They are people whom He created and loves, but also people whom He desires to use to spread His glory among the nations. They are future co-laborers for His Kingdom (Luke 10:2)!
are people whom He created and loves, but also people whom He desires to use to spread His glory among the nations. They are future co-laborers for His Kingdom (Luke 10:2)!
What gaps do we need to bridge in order to help international students become leaders on campus while they are studying here? Once they become believers, how are we helping to prepare them to lead and influence others for Christ while on campus as well as when they leave the campus? A huge part of the discipleship process is passing on what we have learned to others, with the intention that the next person will also pass that along (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:2). We make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Can international students do this as well? Absolutely! But sometimes, there are extra obstacles we need to be aware of to help them see themselves as disciple-makers while they are studying here.
As the question was asked at the beginning of this article about invitation and encouragement, international students need to be invited into leadership. They are not from here and can, at times, feel intimidated to lead because of that. As American believers, we need to be aware of this and offer lots of encouragement and express faith in who God made them to be. In addition, international students have external pressures from home to be extremely studious and focused on their education. Sometimes, their schedule may simply not allow them to fit into the American leadership systems we have in place in Chi Alpha. How can you be flexible in your ministry to internationals and create easier on-ramps for them to get the training they need to become leaders?
Take opportunities to help Christian international students get involved in your Chi Alpha group and hold small responsibilities. Encourage them to lead prayer in your small group, invite them to serve with you as you serve in large group (greeting, cooking, planning events, worship), and inform them of opportunities where they can grow in their leadership skills (LTC Go, All Nations conference, and XAi’s Leadership Intensive Training). This intentionality will speak volumes to your international friends about how you believe in them and in helping them see themselves as potential leaders and disciple-makers wherever God takes them.