Integrating international students into local church ministries

These were some of the perspectives (misattributions?) I encountered when I asked students why they joined mono-ethnic Christian groups:

“Why did you form a Hong Kong small group? Why not join your church’s student group?”

“We found the bible studies superficial.”

“What do you mean?”, I asked, thinking of the church’s in-depth inductive bible studies.

“It’s all text book answers – what does the passage say. But people don’t share how they feel, or how they struggle to live it out.”

and…

“Why did you join the Afro-Caribbean Choir instead of the Christian Union?”

“The Christian Union isn’t passionate about Jesus.”

“How so?” Thinking, “yes they are!”

“They don’t worship at their meetings. How can God’s people come together and not want to sing his praises?”

Apart from the fact that students feel more comfortable in such groups, they are often effective at reaching non-Christians from a similar cultural background, and in a way, more efficient at discipleship because methods and messages are tailored to the audience.

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Remarkable Opportunity!

If Christians talk about international students at all, they usually talk about them in one of two ways: as a necessity for sustaining our UK universities or as a transient presence in our church communities which doesn’t really contribute anything lasting to the church. The first is true, so we are told by those who know about university finances and judging by how much international students are paying for their courses it is easy to believe. The second is not true and it is sad that this perspective means that some churches do not see the great and lasting benefit of investing in the lives of international students; a benefit to the local church but even more significantly, to the worldwide church.   

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