BCM: Our approach to international students

Written in response to Evangelical Organizations Target International Students.

I would like to address how we as a campus ministry approach interaction with international students.

First, a few acknowledgments. Are we a faith-based Christian ministry? Yes. Do we want all students, including international students, to consider the Christian faith? Yes. Do we hope that many students come to share our faith in Christ? Yes, we do. Are we committed to practice our ministry with ethical integrity and respect for every student and his or her worldview? Absolutely.

How do we hold these various desires and convictions together?

1) No strings attached. We seek to assist and serve all students in any way that we are able even if they never show interest in Christianity.

2) Up front about content. We want to stay away from anything that could be considered a “bait and switch” approach. We are committed to advertise the content of our programs so students will know what to expect if they attend.

3) An invitation to learn about the Christian faith. We believe this opportunity is relevant, appropriate, and valuable to a university community. In the marketplace of ideas that is a university, we believe Christian truth claims should be examined with critical thought and scrutiny. When that is the case, we also think that many will find ultimate questions to be best answered in Christ.

How does this work out in our ministry? Our international student programs are formulated around three ideas: hospitality, service and ministry.

One of the concrete ways we do this is by connecting international students with families in the community for a meal in their homes. We offer an informal conversational English gathering and one-on-one language partners.

Spiritual topics may or may not come up during such conversations. Our ministry opportunities are where expressions of faith are intentional. These include Bible study discussions, conversations about faith and opportunities to connect to churches. When these are scheduled programs, we identify them as having Christian content.

Cognizant of it or not, every person operates out of a belief system whether it is theistic, atheistic or secular humanist. Our Christian belief system, genuinely applied, leads us to value and care for every person especially those facing difficulty or challenge including international students adjusting to a different culture in a new country. That conviction is rooted deeply in our faith’s tradition and instruction to make provision for the sojourner. That’s who we are.

Tommy Johnson 

Campus Minister

Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM)