Every year, thousands of Latino students land on campuses all across the United States. Some of them are coming to campus for the first time. Others transferred this semester. Still others have been on campus for months and years. All of them matter to God. Will these students meet Jesus? Will they connect with meaningful Christian community on campus?
The season of New Student Outreach (NSO) during the first couple months of the school year is a great time to reach out and make connections with Latino students. Here are some lessons, best practices, and resources to help you get started!
Some things to know as you’re making connections and building trust with Latino Students
- Be intentional and explicit about welcoming Catholic and Protestant students. There is often a lot of division and misunderstanding in these communities so be intentional and explicit to cast vision that this is a community for Catholic and Protestant students.
- Create opportunities for students to serve and lead from the start (on a flier, at a table, in a contact card, etc.) Make easy onramps for low-hanging fruit, students are ready to lead!
- Hospitality is really important in Latino culture! But remember, hospitality is not just the food, decor and atmosphere. Good hospitality goes beyond a greeter at the table and helps welcome someone into the space. This could include walking with a new student and introducing them to the space and people.
- Always have food and music (when allowed)
- Engage Latino students with questions about their family, hometown, and culture.
- Because family is such a high value, keep in mind that Latino students likely won’t stick around campus over holidays or even weekends (host events during the week, etc.)
- Use language to describe the ministry that is inclusive and easily understood (discipleship group, what is that?) Describe what you’ll actually do at this group instead of using Christianity/InterVarsity language and acronyms.
- Since many Latino students come from a Catholic background, think about including liturgical prayer and be intentional about helping Catholic students know what to expect (maybe have an “order of service” or something for your large group gatherings since Catholic students might not be sure what’s happening). Also, probably don’t make students pray out loud in the first meeting.
- Keep doing follow-up! Students might not have a category for a parachurch ministry like InterVarsity, so building trust is absolutely crucial. Don’t quit following up too early. Follow up personally with every new student and build trust, get to hear their story, etc. It may take several follow-up attempts to get a response, some persistent!
- If you’re starting LaFe ministry, seek out the places where Latino students spend time on campus. Visit the multicultural center, connect with the Latino student orgs at the org fair, host a table at the Latino org fair if you have one.