Are there international students on your local campus? Has your church thought about reaching out to them? It might seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn't have to be. You just need to find a place to start.
Recruit a team. You may already have some leaders in your church that would love to be a part of ministry to internationals. Your missions committee, Women on MIssion groups, mission minded students in your own ministry. Gather your team and get started.
Research. There are several ways to find out about the international students on your local campus. Start by checking reports from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Every year data is compiled from colleges and universities around the state. The annual almanac is particularly useful. Find that information on their website here. Check the school websites of your local campus for information about internationalstudent programs and what they offer. For broader information about international students and study abroad, check out the Open Doors resource here.
Reach out. If there is a BSM on your local campus, you can start by contacting the director to find out more about international ministry. Your church may be able to partner with a ministry that has already been established. For example, every year several churches help the Aggie BSM provide home goods and furnishings for incoming international students. The BSM Director may also be able to help you know who to contact on the campus for more information on how your church could help.
If your campus does not have a BSM, you will want to contact the international education office, or the office of student services. Let them know who you are and that your church would like to offer to help incoming international students. Right now is a great time to contact them! Plans are in the works for students coming to campus in August. Your church might be able to provide van rides to the store, home furnishing items to students who need them, or be a part of a cultural exchange program.
Be Reliable. Whatever you choose to do to serve internationals, remember that the campus and those students are counting on you! You are building a relationship with the campus for the long term. Let them know that your church is a trustworthy partner in the community by keeping your commitments and doing things with excellence. Be sure to follow their guidelines when given an assignment by the campus. Go the extra mile by giving away welcome packs when you give rides, or provide coffee and pastries for the international staff during their busy season. Remember it's an investment in your local community and the world!
If you're interested in planning a strategy for your church, contact Ginger Bowman at ginger.bowman[at]texasbaptists.org.