Returning home after a year at college can be a challenge. Now that we’ve experienced God’s work in our lives, we want to introduce our friends to him. But how can we witness back home when we never did before? And we don’t always keep in touch well with high school friends—what if we don’t know how to relate to them anymore? Jesus definitely wants us to bring what we’ve seen and experienced to others, even if there are years of history we’ve got to take into account. Here are two ways to help you bring your witness back home.
Hear their story
You’re not the only one who’s changed. No matter who it is, Christian or not, people change in college for better or worse. And if we’re going to demonstrate a Christ-like love for them, we should start by hearing their story.
Hearing their story demonstrates love.
As you learn what’s been significant, powerful, or defining for them, you learn what’s going on in their lives. You may see how God’s been at work already. You might find ways to demonstrate Christ’s love to them. But in any case, you can appreciate and understand what they’ve gone through. And since witness really begins by having trust, knowing what’s going on in their lives is crucial.
If there is some distance built up from lack of contact, you’ll have to work at the relationship. It may not look very “spiritual,” but quality time is an important measure of love and grace to people. Jesus didn’t preach all the time—he did a lot of walking and eating with people too. Jesus cared about the whole person and the whole relationship, and so should we.
Hearing their story means asking about it.
Even if those bonds are still strong, not everyone is good at telling their own story. So, help them. Jesus often asked questions to get people to share honestly. Whether it’s asking about different parts of their lives or just learning more about them, it’s important to walk with them through their experience.
Also, hearing their story doesn’t happen all at once. It can happen in pieces over a stretch of time, or in pivotal conversations. However it happens, you want your friends to be comfortable and honest. You want more than pat answers, more than “my major’s going well.” You want to really know what is going on—God is in the details, you might say.
Hearing their story helps us enter into it.
Not only does hearing their story break the ice and bring you up to speed, it also brings you into their story in a small way. By engaging with what they have to share, you are moving into their life and they will take notice. Because you care and are affirming that what they’ve been through (good and bad) is relevant, you are consciously demonstrating that your friend is important to you. More than any plan, we need to re-enter our friends’ lives by spending time and hearing them out.
Greg Hsu is a campus staff member at the University of Virginia, planting an Asian American chapter this fall. He loves basketball from his alma mater (Duke University), playing the piano, full-Windsor knots, and barbecue ribs. He blogs at http://hsuva.wordpress.com/.