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Yesterday, I had a conversation with a couple of people regarding Coffee Break being used for ESL (English as a Second Language)  groups in churches. I admit that this is not my area of expertise, and yet I do agree that ESL can use the Bible very effectively to teach English. I know of a Chinese couple who came to know the Lord through the ESL. They came to the church to learn English; they met Jesus in the process!

I'd love to hear from more of you who are doing this, or are considering this ministry in your church. What resources do you use? How do you train your leaders? Is there a story you can share, that would encourage others?

I look forward to hearing more conversation around ESL with Coffee Break.


Marian Lensink


Marian, did you happen to catch the Global Coffee Break article in the February Banner? Before I started researching this article, I had no idea about the global impact Coffee Break was having and the various languages in which the materials were available. 

Another ESL or ELL resource is available through ReFrame Media, the English outreach of Back to God Ministries International: Spotlight English Clubs. These are great easy-to-implement materials for outreach. Your quote "They came to the church to learn English; they met Jesus in the process!" is one that perfectly fits the Spotlight outreach. 

Here are a couple of links to stories about how churches/individuals are using Spotlight to connect with ELL people in their communities.  and

The Hebron CRC in Whitby, Ontario has a Coffeebreak group for newcomers to Canada. First God brought together two facilitators with a vision for this ministry. They prayed and God brought the women. We like using the Coffeebreak inductive Bible studies because it encourages us to find the answers right in the Scriptures. We tailor the lesson according to the needs of the group and find that supplementing with visuals is very helpful. E.g. Writing the answers on the board, showing video clips of the Bible stories. The women feel safe and share prayer requests. Leading an unbeliever through the prayer of commitment found in the study guides is a rewarding privilege. We are like other Coffeebreak groups except that we cover the material more slowly because of the language barriers.

We have found the training offered by the Southern Ontario Cooperative of ESL Ministries helpful and have invited one of their trainers to lead ESL training workshops at Hebron Church in Whitby on April 27&28, 2012. Contact the church for more information.

I have been leading an ESL Coffee Break group at Ancaster Meadowlands Fellowship CRC for three years now. The Coffee Break component has nothing to do with the material we're using and everything to do with fellowship and community. I use ESL Bible Study materials, but we commune with the non-ESL C.B. women first over coffee, baked goods, singing, and devotions. After the opening time together, we break off into our own Bible study groups. I find the partnership between the ESL learners and the church women to be very important, and meaningful relationships have been formed. The biggest challenge is modifying the material I use. It's not hard, just time consuming. Irene, you are right on about supplementing the lessons with visuals, etc.. This is a must in an ESL setting. I'm also very interested in this training by the ESL Ministries you mentioned. I've never heard of such a ministry. Perhaps I will have to look into the training, although I am a certified ESL teacher. I'm sure there's always something new to learn. In the meantime, I want to work on writing a basic ESL bible study that includes supplement ideas, with the focus not only on ESL learners, but inner-city/low-literacy learners. Wouldn't it be great if there was curriculum that could bring the gospel of Christ to those who need it most but can't receive it because of language/learning barriers? There is a huge need for this in Hamilton. If there's curriculum out there that falls into this category already, let me know.  

Irene Bakker on March 23, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I share many of your thoughts and passions. I too am a teacher and find that this background enables me to adapt curricum easily. I have my eye on adapting a particular curriculum into one that presents the story of salvation in 5 lessons. As you have said, "it's not hard, just time consuming." Maybe through the network we could develop a team and come up with material that others could also use.

I encourage you to google "southern Ontario cooperative of ESL ministries." There you will find many resources, including the Alpha ESOL material.

If you want more know about the "immigrant ministry conference" that Hebron CRC is hosting on the evening of April 27 and all day, april 28 th, please contact Joey at [email protected] Cost is only $25. The facilitator is Marion Chang of the SOuthern Ontario coop of ESL ministries.

Thanks for continuing the conversation, Irene. I went to the Cooperative web-site you mentioned. I had no idea there was already a network in place. While reading through some of the listed resources, I was reminded that what one teaches in the classroom and how one teaches it really has to do with the learners that show up that day. As much as I would like to come up with a "one size fits all" curriculum, the reality is that with all the different language levels, cultural backgrounds, and religions represented in an ESL Bible Study group, there is no curiculum that is going to be the perfect fit. I see my lesson writing as being the gospel of Jesus Christ at an organic level, and then adapting according the learners who happen to be sitting across from me. My lessons speak to the "middle", and then I supplement for those who wish to dig deeper, but also allow time and translation/explanation for those who are slower to understand. I've never regretted the work necessary to be 'all things to all people', but some days I wish there was an easier way. I trust it will all come together in time.

It's been almost two years since my last post on leading an ESL Bible Study. In some ways a lot has changed since then, and in other ways, nothing has changed.

What hasn't changed is that God continues to bless our church with Korean sisters who have a real hunger for God's Word. Year after year I wonder if the group will carry on because so often the women return to Korea with their children after a year of English studies. But without fail, new women join, and it has been an absolute joy and privilege to be a part of their faith journey.

What has changed is that I no longer seek curriculum in leading our Wednesday morning studies. Reading my previous posts, I'm reminded how much of a time consuming effort it was to prepare. Since then, I've learned to "let go" of the lessons and allow them to lead themselves. When it's clear that another season of Bible study is before me, God shows me a vision of sorts of what the road is going to be; what Spiritual truths we're going to be learning in the coming months. I can see both the beginning of the journey as well as the goal. Then, week by week, I sit down behind my computer and type up the scripture verses and deeper questions that will channel our discussions towards the finishing line. Each week the lessons write themselves, and I choose a song that we read through and listen to to accompany the lesson in order to drive the point home.

It's not like me to just sit back and watch things unfold without me being tempted to help the Spirit along, but God has taught me these past two years that He is very capable in leading these women to the foot of the cross.

As always, it would be wonderful if there were more opportunities to encourage one another as ESL leaders. Perhaps having a session for ESL leaders at the Diaconal "Day of Encourgement" in October could be considered.

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