Leading Pre-evangelistic Discussion Parties with Internationals
We each earn the right to be heard through attentive listening. This is especially true when it comes to discussing important issues of life. Discussion parties are a great way to provide opportunities for lively dialogue and conversation between internationals and Friendship Partners.
International students like to engage in significant discussion and dialogue on serious issues – especially issues about life and God. These types of discussions can result in international students changing their worldviews!
So, what is a discussion party? First, let’s clarify what it is not. It is not the pooling of the group members’ ignorance, a debate or an opportunity to win an argument or convince others of your point of view. A discussion party is a cooperative time of lively discussion on topics not normally brought up in conversation. It is a time where internationals can enjoy open conservation with American Christians without rejection and hostility. Most importantly, it is an opportunity for internationals to inquire about Christianity.
Before having a discussion party, it is important to remember that “success” is not determined by whether or not internationals accept Christ as a result of the discussion party. Every non-believer is at a different level of spiritual understanding. All God is asking you to do is be faithful in sharing the Gospel. Future contacts with Christians may lead your friend to the place of repentance, building on the foundation you have laid.
It is important to prepare for discussion parties. Topics should be chosen beforehand and the leader should be knowledgeable on the issue. Topics should be interesting and important to the participants, within the knowledge and experience of the group, and international in scope. In order to enhance discussions, it is a good idea to formulate a number of open-ended questions. The following are some topic suggestions: the nature of truth, the role of technology, marriage in different cultures, the role of education in society, attitudes toward the elderly, the meaning of freedom, the nature of God. For a list of more topic ideas, click here and here.
While the topic of discussion is important, the environment and presentation is vital. Here are some good guidelines that will increase the effectiveness of your discussion party:
- Help each international feel accepted, and encourage them to share their opinions.
- Be enthusiastic and friendly. Contribute freely to the discussion, but don’t do all the talking.
- Wait until an individual is finished sharing his or her point of view before responding.
- Be gentle in responding to a point of view.
- Internationals from some cultures may be hesitant to speak out in a group or in the presence of their host or hostess. Be sensitive to this, and try to draw out more reserved participants.
- Stick to the topic; don’t go off on a tangent.
- Don’t be afraid to clearly present a biblical viewpoint. However, avoid stifling the discussion with “cut-and-dried” answers. If others feel that you are not open to truly hearing their ideas because you already have “the answer,” they will not respond as openly and the discussion will deteriorate.
- Articulate your answers carefully. Avoid slang words, idioms and Christian jargon such as saved, born again, glorifying God, etc.
- Be sure the internationals leave the discussion party knowing that you like them for who they are.
Often times, the most meaningful interaction takes place after discussion parties. Be sure to continue interacting with internationals.
Using open and friendly discussion parties, Friendship Partners will earn the right to be heard. As preconceived attitudes are broken down and relationships are strengthened, many internationals will be exposed to Christ. Friendship Partners will also find new and creative ways to share their faith with others.
For more detailed advice on leading discussion parties, we encourage you to order Let’s Talk about It.