‘We don’t know who will come to our English class, their background, English level or expectations…’
To all those thinking about offering some kind of English outreach from their churches, this is for you
There can be a nervousness about opening the church door to say welcome to all – welcome if you are new or newish to the UK. Welcome if you have no idea who Jesus is (and maybe don’t care right now. ) Welcome if you are in need Ð and if you don’t look or sound like most of the congregation. And welcome, even when you know it won’t be immediately easy to communicate in the English language.
Despite the some trepidation, churches across the UK are providing a welcome in very real, warm and practical ways to immigrant populations. They are often standing in the gap, meeting an English learning need that is not being met or financed by government. In addition to English classes or conversation groups, they are often doing more, offering warmth, a community and maybe even Jesus.
We know this because our own local church is starting a Christianity Explored course for internationals. We have also been overwhelmed by the response of churches to our project to train congregants to reach and teach English to local non-native English speaking communities.
Churches are delivering English outreach locally in very different ways:
- Some, like our local church in Exeter, are using a simplified English version of the Christianity Explored course.
- Antioch church in Wales will be providing extra English conversation practise to Syrian refugees.
- Informal English cafes have been set up by Christians across the country
- ODILS in Plymouth provide numerous outreach initiatives to immigrant populations including English lessons and job clubs
The wonderful English Teaching and Outreach Forum held each year in London where Christians involved in ESOL outreach can meet and learn together is a testament to just some of the great work that is being done.
When you open the church doors you never know who will come, but how heartening it is that there are so many Christians holding these doors open wide with a clear and open invitation to come in, taste and see .