Has your church/ministry decided to start an ESL ministry with the hope of opening doors to share the gospel with non-English-speaking people in the community? If so, the million-dollar question is: how to move from just teaching English to using the ESL ministry to open doors for sharing the gospel?
When a church or ministry moves outside of what most would consider “normal” church activities (regular services, revivals, Sunday School, children’s and youth ministries, etc.), it has been our experience in over 50 years of sharing the gospel that churches tend to struggle with how to make the jump from less “religious” activities (like a n ESL ministry) to the desired goal of sharing the gospel. Whether that activity be a women’s club, a sports program, a tutoring program, or an ESL ministry, most churches struggle with knowing how to build the bridge to sharing the gospel.
A recent personal experience of mine will illustrate a solution to that problem. When we retired from our ministry as missionaries in Latin America, we began attending a fast-growing, soon-to-be multiple-campus mega church. The area where we live has a large immigrant population composed of many nationalities. However, the most visible effort the church had made to reach any of those immigrant groups was a small ESL program started and staffed mostly by dedicated young people that met in a different church’s building in an area of the city where many Latin American immigrants live.
The leaders of that ESL ministry wanted to start a spiritual ministry to Spanish-speakers and to plant a Spanish-speaking church (or campus) sometime in the future. However, several years into that ESL ministry, there was no visible movement toward accomplishing that goal.
Since most of our ministry in Latin America was centered around evangelizing and discipling university and high school students, one of the first things I did when we started attending the church was to look for any Latin American youth/students in the worship services. I finally spotted Alejandro, a Latin American university student and invited him to get coffee with me one afternoon.
To be clear, you will notice that my experience did not begin with a TESOL program, but what I did as I got to know that young man is illustrative of how to bridge the gap between a secular activity and our spiritual objective. My wife, further on in this article, will share her experience with a secular ESL program in our city and how she reached an entire family for Christ. Then I will share another example of how I used a sports activity to reach an entire family for Christ.
This article is 1 of 5 in a series.