The Life-Changing Ministry of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Class

When I was 17 years old, I got involved in two EFL* class run by churches in my area, and I never looked back! I love connecting over language. Since then, when people ask me how to get started, how to meet and make friends with internationals, EFL class is always my go-to answer. “Find one!” I tell them. “And if you can’t find one, start one! You will not regret it.”

There are four reasons why I think EFL class is one of the most life-changing ministries out there:

  1. It’s simple.

It does not take much to start a class. The structure can be simple, with one formally or informally qualified teacher leading a classroom style segment, and then volunteers leading a second, small group conversation segment. The venue can also be simple, with most classes meeting at local churches in Sunday school rooms or fellowship halls.

  1. It’s a starting place.

Most volunteers for EFL class do not need to be certified English teachers. In fact, if they were raised in the US (or whatever the host country is), then they already have what they need to be a good conversation leader: fluency in conversational English.

So an EFL class is an ideal place for new volunteers to get their start, since it’s a group setting and they have other team members to learn from and ask questions to (rather than going by themselves to an immigrant’s home for their first assignment, which might be intimidating for some).

EFL class is also a starting place for many immigrants, since they it fulfills a felt need that they have and is not as intimidating (or forbidden, for some) as attending a church for Sunday morning worship. For many international students (and immigrants in general) EFL class is the first place where they interact with people from the host-country in a regular, friendly, informal context.

  1. It’s a safe place.

Learning or perfecting a new language is often lonely, frustrating, and humiliating. An good EFL class cultivates a safe, low-pressure atmosphere where students are free to be vulnerable and free to experiment and mess up without repercussions. Having a sanctuary like this is a powerful source of well-being for newcomers, and can also be an environment for cultivating good friendships.

  1. It’s a springboard.

The majority of relationships which I have cultivated with immigrants over the last 11 years have been facilitated by some sort of English class.

The best EFL classes don’t view the class as the end goal. Instead, the class is viewed as a beginning, a springboard to friendships which will last even after the last class of the semester.

And these cross-cultural friendships have the potential and the power to change lives—both your immigrant friends’ and your own, by broadening both of your perspectives, opening your eyes to one another’s cultures, and talking about things that matter.

Will you be involved in an EFL class this coming semester? How do you feel about it – excited, nervous, tired…all of the above?

Let me know what resources you would like to see about EFL classes on Loving the Stranger Blog in the future!

*I choose to use “English as a Foreign Langauge” (EFL) class rather than “English as a Second Language” (ESL) class when speaking about this type of class since for many of the students, English is their third (or fourth, or fifth!) language.


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