When thinking about the topic of evangelism, note that there is no one perfect approach. Some people respond well in one-to-one gospel presentations while others may feel more comfortable in large group meetings. Because of this variety in response, we recommend that you try both approaches over the course of a year.
Large group evangelistic meetings can be especially effective when a guest speaker, –or key figure in some other type of presentation–addresses a felt need for many internationals. Then, the speaker transitions into ‘spiritual matters’ and generally concludes by inviting the audience to consider a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your evangelistic meeting:
1. Pray – All of our efforts are in vain unless they are done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to guide you, to bless your efforts, and to provide fruit.
2. Select an Appealing Topic – It’s extremely important to choose a topic for your meeting which will be of interest to international students. You are counting on your students to bring their friends and for the topic to generate interest among both Christians and non-Christians alike. Brainstorm ideas with your international friends. Also, ask around to find Christians who have expertise in public speaking.
Some possible topics might be:
- “5 Keys to Success” – You could invite a prominent Christian businessman to talk about key factors in his success. Ask him to conclude by describing his personal life journey and the positives he has experienced from believing in Christ.
- “Keys to a Successful Marriage” – Ask your speaker to give 5 or 6 tips (with life examples) for making marriage work and to conclude by explaining the difference Christian marriage has made in his or her marriage.
- “How to Make Friends with Americans” – Put together a panel of Americans and internationals, asking each member to share some ideas and help answer questions. The transition to spiritual things could be as simple as reminding people that Christians seek to love everyone, regardless of nationality or background.
- A musical performance – The musician(s) perform and also share how their faith (or that of the composer) influences their ability to perform and the nature of their personal lives.
- Thanksgiving or Christmas Holiday – Invite a local pastor to speak about true meaning of Thanksgiving or Christmas. Provide games and cultural activities which allow the students to mix well with each other as they learn about the culture.
- Easter can not only be a lot of fun with easter egg hunts and the like, but also give a wonderful opportunity to share the love of God seen in the cross and resurrection.
3. Choose a Good Location – Choose a location for your event that is easy to reach, easy to find and seems attractive or at least “neutral.” Note that students from some cultures may be curious to visit a church while those from other cultures may be uncomfortable.
4. Identify a Good Time – Choose a day and a time when the largest number of people you are seeking to reach will be free. International student friends can help you avoid time conflicts–with the university schedule or with holidays and special events that are important to internationals.
5. Consider Providing Dinner – It is often helpful to offer dinner before or after your program. This will require a lot more work, but it will probably give you a better turnout. Certain cultures are especially responsive to the social appeal of a meal. As one Chinese disciple once told a veteran campus minister, “Ours is an eating culture.”
6. Use Various Means to Promote the Event – Publicize your event with fliers, posters, website postings and a well-coordinated series of emails. But even the most well-oiled publicity campaign is not a substitute for the best method-personal invitations. Encourage your international student disciples and friends to bring their friends with them to the event. Internationals are similar to Americans in being shy about going somewhere new on their own.
7. Practice “Full Disclosure” – We never want to misrepresent our work and thus give others a reason to doubt our integrity. If you will communicate significant spiritual content at your event, make sure your publicity says something like, “Our speaker will also talk about the spiritual values that have guided his life.”
8. Plan Each Segment of the Program – The following is a sample program plan. You should develop a similar plan, adding appropriate amounts of time for each.
- Welcome (Your emcee might try to warmly acknowledge all the countries that are represented…)
- Introduce guest speaker
- Speaker’s talk
- Hand out comment cards
- Questions-and-answers (NOTE: Although usually appropriate, there are times when you might not wish to offer this. For example, if you think your speaker will end with an especially powerful point, you might not want that point to be obscured by relatively unimportant questions.)
- Say good night, make announcements, and ask people to drop their cards in a box by the door as they leave
9. Involve others – Pulling together an event of this type will involve a lot of details. Whenever possible, recruit international students to help. They can create and distribute the publicity, reserve the room, set up chairs, emcee, welcome people when they arrive, collect comment cards, serve refreshments, etc. Generally speaking, the greater the involvement of your students, the greater will be their ownership of the event.
10. Provide for Follow-up — Consider handing out some type of comment card or response card so that you can contact those audience members who are interested in talking further. This is often the most strategic step in the process. “Filtered contacts” like these will fuel your ministry for many weeks and months to come.