International Students, Hospitality, and Squishy Statistics

August 18, 2019 § Leave a comment

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The venerable Ed Stetzer, at Christianity Today, has added his voice to those calling for the need to show hospitality to international students visiting the US. He also brings attention to the squishy statistic of how many students are never hosted in an American home. He writes,

The informal number people in the field quote says that three out of four international students never set foot in a North American home during their time in school. (I can’t find any original statistics to verify it, but most people in the movement say it is true and fits their experience.)

Last year I wrote about this oft-used statistic, but I remembered it as 80% (rather than 75%). Leiton Chinn is familiar with the same figure, and I quoted him, again from Christianity Today:

Ever since I began encouraging the church to welcome and host international students over four decades ago, I have heard the repetitive declaration that 80% of international students never enter an American home. Even though I have sought to find the research that reported such a claim without success, the reality is that the majority of students from other countries do not experience being hosted in an American home.

A quick search of the Internet has the three-out-of-four stat (or something close to it) showing up in quite a few places, though I’ve not found the numbers highlighted by anyone outside the Christian community. They state that “75 percent,” “as high as seventy-five percent,” “nearly 75 percent,” “about 75 percent,” “over 70 percent,” or “70%” of international students never enter—or, as some say, are not even invited into—an American home.

Regardless of the exact number, Stetzer points out that this is an important situation for the church to consider. About the 75% statistic, he says,

If accurate, that’s concerning. These students come from all over the world and we’ve been given an incredible opportunity to show them hospitality. But as far as I can tell, most of our families are not taking advantage of it.

Now I love hospitality, but what I love even more is when people have the chance to hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the (many) reasons why we should be grateful to have international students on our college campuses here in North America is that their proximity to our homes gives us the opportunity to share that message with them.

Many students are coming from countries where it’s illegal to be a missionary. In some places, Christians are losing their lives even trying to practice their faith, much less share the gospel. For them to be surrounded by churches and believers is a bigger deal than we might recognize at first. We thank God for opening this door of ministry to us and, for the sake of these students, we need to take advantage of it.

Seventy-five percent? Eighty percent? What if it were twenty-five percent? Maybe we should be content just to say “too many,” and then act accordingly.

(Ed Stetzer, “Ministering to International Students,” Christianity Today, August 16, 2019; Leiton Chinn, “Making Room at Your Table for Interventional Students,” Christianity Today, November 9, 2018)

[photo: “Welcome,” by Prayitno, used under a Creative Commons license]

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