One of the greatest privileges we have while investing in college students is to help them to expand their world-view in order to see the opportunities God has given them to impact the Kingdom. In Matthew 28:19, the Great Commission challenges us all to go and make disciples of “all nations” – [Pante ta ethne in Greek] best translated as “all the people groups.” Notice that this is not geographic, but focused upon the peoples themselves rather than lines drawn on a map.
We are currently living in an unprecedented time where the people groups are coming to us in droves! We no longer have to fly around the world to engage Unreached, Unengaged People Groups (UUPG’s). We have an unparalleled opportunity right here to share Christ with people from very difficult and remote places in the world where missionaries have been banned or heavily restricted.
University campuses are teeming with international students who have never been invited into an American home, let alone a Christian one. Our cities and towns are now filling with different languages, cultures, and remote people groups. Why should we care about this? Because God does. His heart is for the nations. He has always had people groups in mind with His Gospel plan of salvation and transformation.
What is a People Group Excursion?
So, how do we teach our students to engage the nations here at home? The first step is to help them begin thinking like a missionary wherever their “beautiful feet” take them. (Is 52:7; Rom 10:15.) One way to do this is through a People Group Excursion. People Group Excursions are part adventure, relationship building, and learning to be salt and light. Good people group ministry in your city is about discovery and engagement.
Discovery: “Map” your area
To plan a People Group Excursion, do a bit of research and actually “map” points of interest where students will likely encounter various people groups in your area. Use local missional friends and the internet as resources to help you locate places in the city where you can encounter people groups where they hang out, shop, eat, play, and worship.
Engagement: Meet some people
Once you have “mapped” several key points of interest in your area, develop a plan to send students out in teams to these places to gather information, interact with people from other cultures, and engage in spiritual conversations. You can set aside a day where teams go out and then gather back together for a debriefing time. Here is an example of a couple of excursions that I did for a group in Columbus. (I had 15 different excursions – one for each team.)
Make sure to include a variety of experiences in the excursions: a place of worship, an ethnic restaurant, International grocery/market, and another cultural locations like a bakery, coffee/tea shop, or henna salon, etc. Communicate that the goal is to find “persons of peace” (Luke 10) and to learn about other people and cultures. Being a learner is key when interacting cross-culturally. Designate a time for the teams to gather back together for a time of debriefing to discuss lessons learned about other cultures, life applications, and God’s heart for the nations. Here is an example of Debriefing Questions.
This cross-cultural adventure will open the eyes of your students and expand their worldview to see the abundant opportunities right here at home. Many of them will eat foods they have never eaten, encounter people from various countries, and experience hospitality in a new and different way.
For more information about how to plan and execute a People Group Excursion in your city or to develop a strategy to engage the peoples on your campus or city, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some links to helpful resources for further growth & next steps:
Strangers Next Door, by JD Payne.
The Peoples Next Door Project – An initiative for training local churches to work with people groups in their city!
How To Share Christ With Your Friends of Another Faith, by Dr. Jeff Brawner
One Thing: A Gospel Centered Life on Mission by Ben Harrell. It includes a number of resources at the end to help churches, teams and individuals develop plans for engaging a people group or a city.
God’s Heart for the Nations, by Jeff Lewis. 8 week bible study.
Peoplegroups.info – map of current people group info in U.S. (research ongoing) with people group profiles and other discover/engage resources.
Joshua Project – info for the U.S. Note that the numbers are what we know now or estimates. Many peoples are entering the states daily, and the census info often does not accurately delineate to a specific people group.
Missionalmayhem.com – My blog on living life missionally.