“Every mighty oak from a tiny acorn grew”

Start small; think big

Beginning any new ministry is an adventure. We don’t know what will happen or what God will do, nor should we be overly concerned at the outcome. God simply calls us to be faithful and to do what we can. We may have a vision of a city-wide ministry impacting hundreds of students or we may simply want to have a fruitful ministry among a few international students. Either way it is important to remember that every significant enterprise began with something small and manageable. 

Whatever our own vision and however much or little faith we have it is essential to be realistic about what is possible in the short term. Don’t over estimate what can be achieved in 12 months; but at the same time don’t underestimate what can be done in 5 years. We want to encourage you to start with something small and do it well, praying that God will give you co-workers to encourage you and to share the load. If that goes well then you can begin to dream about something on a larger scale. Start small, but think big! God can do “far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)

A lasting ministry, needs good foundations so here are some starting principles to consider….


As John 4:35 shows, God is already at work preparing international students to come to know him. Beginning with prayer will open your eyes to what he is already doing in your context and give you wisdom for the part you can play in sowing and reaping.

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International students come from many different backgrounds with a wide variety of experiences of Christianity, so we need to take time to reflect on the journey people are taking….

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Take the time to find out who the international students are and what they are looking for, so that you can provide relevant events, resources, and connections.

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Involve your church leadership

ISM ministry is about all of God’s church fulfilling its calling to show hospitality to the stranger and making Jesus Christ known to the nations.

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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.

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Disciple for the long term

ISM is not just about students becoming Christians where you are. You must also prepare them for lifelong discipleship in their home culture or wherever God takes them after graduation.

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Find a mentor

You don’t need to be alone. There are experienced ISM workers willing to guide and resource you.

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