Develop a vision for your context
Every city and every university is different. The students are different. The resources available are different. The possibilities are different. Crafting a unique vision for your context is vital for building a lasting ministry.
+ First Steps
Together with others (perhaps some of those recommended by your church leaders) try to develop a specific vision for ISM in your location. Seek to be clear and realistic about your aims. It’s better to start small and then grow the ministry as the vision for it catches the imagination of other church members and other churches.
The following questions may help you in this process:
- What are the greatest needs of international students not being addressed by others?
- Are there activities organized by others that would benefit from partnership with your church?
- Are there any obvious connections between your church and a particular group of international students?
- What resources of people, finances and facilities does your church have?
- What do you want to achieve by a particular activity? Make connections with international students by offering something they want eg visiting a local home or place of interest, language and/or cultural exchange, sporting activity. Provide a context for relationship building (a good first step) – see this diagram. Or an opportunity for students to hear the gospel in culturally appropriate ways
- What might be a good first step to take?
- How will you best communicate with your church family and encourage prayer for this ministry?
If we are to succeed in building a lasting ISM we will need to get to know and gain the support of church leaders, wardens of student accommodation and members of the university who carry responsibility for international students. Time spent cultivating such relationships is time well spent.
When approaching church leaders be sure to explain that you are not asking them to DO anything! You want to keep them informed, you want their support for your initiative and you want them to understand that you are trying to help their churches play a part in reaching the nations for Christ.
University authorities can vary a great deal in their responses to Christian initiatives. They may be eager for help in caring for international students but wary of “Bible-bashing” and insensitive attempts to share the gospel. Giving them an opportunity to get to know you and your genuine desire to serve the students can help to overcome any caution they may have. It is always a good idea to get others praying for you before and during your visit.
+Recruit a Team
Recruiting a team is an essential part of developing ISM where you are. You cannot do it alone and if the work is to grow you will need a good number of people with a range of different gifts:
- Having a prayer team to support the work behind the scenes is very important and you may find some older people including retired missionaries who will be very happy to be part of this team.
- You will also need a team for every activity you arrange (whether a regular event or a single event). Some people will be good at planning, others keen to build relationships with students and others will be happy to help with practical things like transportation, cooking or serving food.
- Ask your church leaders and your friends for suggestions of people who can fulfil different roles.
- Clarify different roles in your team.
- Look for ways to provide them with training.
- Do your best to encourage your team and show your appreciation of them at every opportunity.
+Tips for sharing your vision
Here are 4 important factors in enabling others to grasp the vision:
“When he saw the crowds, [Jesus] had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:38
Consider who the key people who may be open to help you:
Leaders/influencers and Potential volunteers
- What kind of people?
- Language teachers
- Former missionaries
- Students or graduates who’ve spent time abroad for their studies
- Hospitable people &/or those with large houses (for hosting events)
Communication Where and when?
- Social media
- article or book review on church website
- prayer meeting
- church service – interview or 5 minute presentation
- Host a meal (or ask a friend to do so) where you share your vision
- be ready to say something whenever you ‘bump into’ a Christian friend
Content Different people respond to different kinds of communication so try to incorporate a mixture of the following
- Scripture. Read more here.
- Stories (including testimonies)
- Statistics (your research should have helped you find some of these)
- Keep it brief & clear (with visuals if possible)
- Be sure to have and to explain your desired outcome
The vision for ISM is often ‘caught’ as much as ‘taught’ so find ways to involve people in single events and pray they get drawn in. For example:
- car drivers or tour guide for a day visit to place of cultural interest;
- cooks for an international student meal;
- specialist speakers for a cultural event;
- conversation partners for language learning/improvement