Spiritual Disciplines for International Students

Kana returns home to Japan where she will work 6-7 days a week with an hour-long subway commute to and from work. Ahmad returns home to a Muslim-majority country where it’s unsafe to have a Bible in printed form. Jing Hua returns home to China where she will struggle to fit into the house church where no one has more than a high school education. These are only a few examples of the settings to which our students will return.  

Spiritual disciplines that “work” for a typical American, such as weekly small groups and Sunday services, may not be possible for a returnee. Beginning with the end in mind is helpful as we help international students establish spiritual disciplines. When they return home, they may not have a Christian community to lean on, so they will need to rely on God more than on any person or leader. Therefore, the most important resource we can give an international student is teaching them to have direct encounters with God.  

ISM recommends at least three disciplines that all or most internationals can continue after returning home:

Other recommended disciplines to develop and encourage:

Scripture engagement:



Regardless of the spiritual discipline, keep in mind:

Heart Language - Encourage them to pray, know Scripture, and worship in their heart language, which will enable them connect more deeply with God and not view Christianity as a foreign religion. (Find Scripture in their language through the YouVersion app.) Even if they are fluent in English, their spiritual journeys back home will likely include others (e.g., Jing Hua in China). Introduce them to believers from their background or bring them to a church in their heart language, even if only for a visit.

Accessibility – Their Christian community may be more like a house church or meeting with friends online. Consider with your friend what format of Scripture and which disciplines will be possible back home. Listening to Scripture and sermon podcasts while standing in a crowded subway may work best for Kana. It is fine to attend church or read the Bible in print while in the States, but it will be best for her to not become dependent on disciplines that are not accessible to her in the future. Someone like Ahmad will need a Bible app on his phone. See security protocols for students returning to closed countries.