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Developing  an  Effective  Church  Based  Ministry:      


Steps   Questions  for  Consideration   Ideas,  Suggestions,  and  Perspectives  

Define  Mission   Why  does  this  ministry  exist?   At  River  City,  ESL  exists  to:  
Vision  and  Goals   What   would   count   a s   s uccess?     What   would   i t   • practically  serve  the  Spanish-­‐speaking  community  surrounding  River  
look  like?   City  by  meeting  an  immediate  stated  need.  
What  are  our  hopes  for  the  students?   • develop  “interweaving”  cross-­‐cultural  relationships:  reciprocal,  
What  are  students’  hopes  for  themselves?     significant,  evangelistic,  and  long-­‐term.  
How  does  this  impact  our  vision?   • learn  how  to  be  and  to  empower  students  to  be  active  voices  for  the  
What  are  our  hopes  for  ourselves  -­‐  the   healing  of  broken  systems  in  our  community.  
volunteers  and  leaders?    How  does  this    
impact  our  vision?   Though  these  statements  of  vision  have  continually  developed  over  the  
  time,  their  basic  principles  have  provided  a  guide  for  all  of  our  choices:  
location,  class  structure  and  schedule,  curriculum  choice,  teacher  
training,  services  provided,  and  so  on.  
Don’t  worry  about  getting  something  set  permanently  in  stone,  but  as  you  
sensitively  listen  to  God,  try  to  lay  out  a  few  guiding  principles.  
Rally  Church   How  can  you  help  the  church  staff  or   Some  ideas  for  sharing  the  vision  (you  could  do  these  with  just  key  staff  
Support   members  catch  the  vision  for  this  idea?   people,  or  with  the  whole  church  if  they’re  already  on  board):  
Who  needs  to  get  behind  the  program  to   • host  an  after-­‐church  lunch  to  share  what  you  learned  during  the  
really  make  it  go?   listening  phase  
How  does  this  program  fit  into  the  larger   • invite  individuals  from  the  community  or  the  partnerships  that  you  
church  structure?   made  during  the  listening  phase  to  come  speak  about  the  community  
Who  will  keep  you  accountable  to  the  vision?   needs  in  your  service  or  at  an  informal  lunch  or  coffee  event  
Who  will  you  need  to  report  to?   • collaborate  with  another  organization  doing  ESL  to  organize  a  field  trip  
  or  open  house  for  church  staff  or  members  
• include  prayer  for  the  ministry  planning  process  and  future  volunteers  in  
the  bulletin  and  at  church  gatherings  
• seek  out  individuals  that  might  be  interested  or  gifted  (see  Leadership  
Gifts  &  Roles  above)  to  share  the  vision  one-­‐on-­‐one  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


Indentify   These  questions  are  relevant  whether  you’re   In  our  experience,  we  have  found  that  things  work  best  when  these  3  key  
Leadership     one  person  hosting  a  conversation  club  in   roles  are  covered,  though  they  may  all  be  done  by  one  (very  busy  and  
your  living  room  or  a  megachurch   hopefully  paid)  person,  or  by  many  volunteers  handling  individual  tasks.  
Gifts  &  Roles  
expecting  200  students…   More  people  means  more  teamwork  and  coordination  required,  but  
  much  less  time  and  stress  for  individuals!    Also,  these  tasks  may  ebb  and  
What  might  be  some  administrative  tasks   flow  between  each  role.  
related  to  your  program?    
Who  has  gifts  in  management  and  admin?   Some  possible  tasks  related  to  administration:  
What  would  be  some  critical  skills  for  this   • recruit  volunteers   • coordinate  and  provide  refreshments  
person?   • keep  volunteers  informed  by  phone   • maintain  facilities  
and  email   • purchase  supplies  &  books  
  • schedule  classes  &  coordinate  with   • manage  finances  
  volunteer  schedules   • organize  childcare  
  • manage  student  data   • plan  and  produce  advertising  
  • keep  on  top  of  calendar  and  to-­‐do  list   • keep  record  of  classes  (photos,  video,  
  • help  teachers  with  preparing  materials   testimonies)  
for  classes   • report  to  church  
  • prepare  and  organize  registration   • conduct  program  evaluation  
  Look  for:  businesspeople,  accountants,  teachers,  secretaries,  managers,  
  event  and  hospitality  planners,  real  estate  agents,  editors…  
What  might  be  some  tasks  that  require   Some  possible  tasks  related  to  socio-­‐emotional  connection:  
connecting  with  students  socially  and   • recruit  students   • provide  info  on  social  services    
emotionally?   • follow  up  with  missing  students   • connect  students  with  broader  church  
Who  has  the  gifts  to  engage  and  relate  to   • return  student  calls   • encourage  student  leadership  and  
• meet  students  at  registration   ownership  
students  on  a  socio-­‐emotional  level?  
• plan  social  events   • evaluate  student  satisfaction  and  
What  might  be  some  critical  skills  needed?   • make  announcements   assess  ongoing  student  needs  
  It’s  ideal  if  inviduals  focusing  on  connection  speak  students’  languages  and  
  are  familiar  with  the  cultures  represented,  so  often  students  with  higher  
  level  English  skills  are  the  most  adept  at  this  role.    However,  anyone  
  with  sensitivity,  a  willingness  to  listen,  and  a  commitment  to  relate  can  
  do  a  great  job.  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


  Look  for:  counselors  and  therapists,  retired  missionaries,  social  workers,  
  human  resources  people,  second  generation  kids  of  immigrants,  English  
  limited  parents  of  church  members,  small  group  leaders,  artists  and  
What  be  some  tasks  that  require  educational   Some  possible  tasks  related  to  educational  effectiveness:  
expertise?   • plan  and  carry  out  assessment  of  students  
Who  has  the  gifts  to  assure  that  the  program   • select  or  design  curriculum  
• train  teachers  and  conduct  ongoing  training  opportunities  
is  educationally  effective?       • provide  lesson  plans  or  help  with  lesson  planning  
What  might  be  some  critical  skills  needed?   • collect  tools  and  resources  for  teachers  
  • observe  and  evaluate  teachers  and  provide  support  and  feedback  
How  could  you  go  about  identifying  these    
individuals?   Individuals  with  formal  ESL  experience  and  training  are  ideal,  because  the  
  needs  of  language  learners  are  unique,  but  any  background  in  education  
will  help!  
Look  for:  K-­‐12  teachers,  professors,  homeschool  parents,  Bible  study  
leaders,  teachers  in  children  or  youth  ministry,  anyone  involved  in  adult  
In  our  case,  we  have  gone  from  one  person  handling  all  these  areas,  to  a  
team  of  up  to  12,  including  a  committee  of  students  handling  socio-­‐
emotional  connection  tasks,  local  high  school  students  handling  
administrative  tasks,  and  a  cohort  of  teachers  handling  educational  
tasks.    Identify  people’s  gifts  and  strengths,  and  then  be  creative!  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


Find  Space  &   How  might  the  location  and  space  affect  the   Consider  benefits  and  drawbacks  to  finding  a  “neutral”  space  more  familiar  
Basic  Supplies   way  the  program  is  run  and  students’   to  students  vs.  holding  classes  that  connect  more  readily  to  your  church.  
participation  in  it?    
for  Classes  
What  partnerships  do  you  have  that  could   Some  possible  locations  for  classes:  
help  you  locate  a  comfortable  space  for   • homes   • community  service  buildings  
students?   • churches   • schools  and  HeadStart  programs  
  • libraries   • small  businesses  
Wherever  you  might  hold  classes,  is  there    
room  for  the  class,  but  also  for  future   Consider  if  you  might  need  space  in  the  future  for:  supply  and  textbook  
needs?   storage,  student  records,  teachers’  resources,  a  student  library,  
If  not,  how  might  you  find  space  for  these   childcare,  a  common  space  for  community  resources,  a  gathering  space  
things  later?   for  events,  etc.  
What  are  the  minimum  supplies  a  class  might   We’ve  found  that  access  to  place  to  write  and  a  copy  machine  are  the  
need  to  function?   basics.    (And  even  these  are  negotiable  for  a  small  group  of  students.)  
What  partnerships  or  resources  could  help    
you  find  these  resources  affordably?   Ideas  for  creative  sources:  
• whiteboards,  tables,  chairs,  file  cabinets,  or  office  supplies  from  
companies  or  schools  upgrading  or  going  out  of  business  
•    or  for  used  supplies/furniture  
• rent  or  lease  a  copy  machine  with  service,  rather  than  purchasing  new  
• use  chalk  paint  on  a  wall,  sheet,  or  piece  of  board  as  a  chalkboard  
• use  packing  paper  or  newsprint  rather  than  purchasing  flip  charts  
• stock  up  on  sale  supplies  after  the  school  year  begins  
• contact  community  colleges  who  provide  ESL  or  GED  classes  for  
textbooks,  resources,  and  reading  materials  that  are  being  cycled  out  
• contact  publishers  for  test  copies  of  books  to  build  a  teacher’s  resource  
or  student  reading  library  
• contact  libraries  for  old  magazines  to  use  for  projects  and  reading  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


Make  Key   There  are  pros  and  cons  to  every  choice.    For   At  River  City,  this  is  how  we  have  answered  some  of  these  questions.    
Decisions  About   more  information  on  some  of  the   These  have  changed  every  semester  and  are  still  changing,  so  don’t  
implications,  see  the  additional  links  on  the   worry  about  making  final  choices  now.    Work  with  what  you  have  and  
Schedule,  blog.   grow  from  there.  
Structure,  Fees,      
and  Spiritual   Key  Questions  on  Structure:   Structure:  
Content   • Will  you  offer  one-­‐on-­‐one  language   • We  started  with  one  small,  drop-­‐in,  multilevel  group  so  that  we  could  
partnership  and  tutoring,  offer  only  one  or   serve  anyone  who  came.    These  types  of  classes  require  curriculum  and  
two  classes  with  various  levels  merged   activities  that  can  serve  students  at  different  ability  levels  (see  
together  and  working  together,  or  offer  a   Curriculum  section  below).    
variety  of  classes  at  different  levels  or  on   • Now  there  are  3  levels  of  classes,  emphasizing  vocabulary,  conversation,  
different  topics  (i.e.  basic  literacy,  college   and  grammar  respectively.    We  register  students  for  these  classes  and  
skills,  computer,  finances)?   keep  careful  attendance,  though  no  one  is  ejected  for  low  attendance.    
• Do  you  want  a  drop-­‐in  class  where  students   (See  Ongoing  Issues:  Students)  
come  when  they  can,  or  a  more  formal   • An  informal  multilevel  conversation  group  meets  separately.    This  is  a  
program  with  registration,  assigned  class   drop-­‐in  group  that  students  attend  as  they  are  available.    This  is  great  
days,  and  attendance?     for  students  with  fluctuating  schedules  that  cannot  attend  regularly.  
On  Schedule:   Schedule:  
• Will  you  accept  new  students  whenever   • We  have  2  weeks  of  registration  before  each  term,  after  a  major  
they  come,  or  during  set  times  only?     advertising  push,  but  accept  students  throughout  the  year.  Open  
• Will  classes  be  ongoing  year-­‐round  or   enrollment  throughout  the  semester  can  be  challenging  for  teachers,  so  
within  set  terms?    If  so,  when  and  how  long   you  may  need  to  develop  strategies  to  help  integrate  new  students  
will  they  last?   effectively  (see  Ongoing  Issues:    Students).  
• Will  you  have  daytime  or  evening  classes?     • We  have  spring  and  fall  class  terms  with  holiday  and  summer  breaks,  
Weekday  or  weekend?  How  often  each  a   but  conversation  group  goes  year-­‐round.    During  the  breaks  we  also  
week?  How  long  will  each  class  be?     offer  special  events  and  outings,  and  if  volunteers  are  available,  
• How  will  the  class  time  be  organized?    Are   occasional  special  interest  classes.    Evening/weekend  and  school  year  
there  other  activities  you’d  like  to  include   scheduling  choices  may  make  it  difficult  for  parents  to  attend  (see  
along  with  classes,  such  as  announcements,   Ongoing  Issues:  Childcare),  but  were  necessary  because  of  our  volunteer  
prayer,  break  time/refreshments,  whole-­‐ base  of  students  and  working  professionals.    If  your  volunteers  tend  to  
group  time  or  activities?   be  stay-­‐at-­‐home  parents  or  retirees,  you  may  have  more  options.    On  the  
  other  hand,  daytime  classes  are  difficult  for  full-­‐time  workers.  
  • We  offer  structured  classes  Tuesday  nights  and  Saturday  mornings  for  3  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


  hours  each,  as  well  as  2  hours  of  conversation  group  on  Thursday  nights.    
  Students  can  attend  one,  two,  or  all  three.  A  variety  of  attendance  
  choices  allows  flexibility  with  students’  scheduling  needs,  but  also  offers  
  an  opportunity  for  up  to  8  hours  a  week  of  English.    (5  hours  per  week  is  
  a  generally  suggested  as  a  minimum  for  continuity  and  effectiveness.)        
  The  classes  are  long  and  many  students  come  after  full  days  (or  nights)  
  of  work,  so  we  have  to  be  very  intentional  about  creating  interactive,  
  engaging  classes  that  use  students’  time  well.  
  • Because  our  students  may  be  late  due  to  work  and  family  requirements,  
  as  well  as  cultural  norms,  the  classes  start  informally  with  self-­‐selected  
  work,  conversation,  and  prayer.    We  have  a  15  minute  break  in  the  
  middle  for  refreshments,  where  all  three  classes  get  together.      
• Once  a  month,  the  student  committee  organizes  an  activity  that  brings  
all  three  classes  together  for  half  of  the  three  hours  such  as  a  workshop,  
potluck,  knowledge  sharing  time,  talent  show,  guest  speaker,  etc.  
On  Fees:  
• Will  you  provide  all  materials  for  students?  
• Classes  are  free.  Requiring  payment  can  give  a  sense  of  credibility  to  a  
• Will  they  pay  for  books  and  materials?   program  and  can  increase  commitment,  but  also  can  limit  some  
• Will  they  pay  a  registration  fee,  and  if  so,   students.    If  you  decide  to  charge  beyond  the  cost  of  materials,  I  would  
how  much?     recommend  waiting  until  you  get  some  of  the  kinks  out  and  are  sure  you  
  are  offering  a  high-­‐quality  product  that  is  worth  what  people  are  paying  
  for.    If  you  decide  not  to  charge,  you’ll  need  to  find  creative  funding  
  methods  (see  above  under  Space  and  Supplies  or  in  the  document  
  Ongoing  Issues:  Funding).  
  • Books  and  materials  are  provided  for  use  in  class  at  no  charge,  but  can  
  be  purchased  to  take  home  for  practice.    We  buy  books  and  dictionaries  
  wholesale  and  tax-­‐free  and  sell  these  at  a  slight  upcharge  to  cover  
  program  costs.    For  classes  that  don’t  use  books,  we  offer  a  class  binder  
  with  helpful  class  organization  tools  and  some  materials  for  students  to  
• There  is  also  a  donation  box  for  students  who  prefer  to  pay  something  
for  the  classes.      

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


On  Spiritual  Content:   Spiritual  Content:  

• Will  your  classes  be  overtly  Christian  or   • Classes  are  not  overtly  evangelistic  or  Bible-­‐based,  though  we  pray  to  
evangelistic?   start  the  classes.  
• Will  you  pray  in  class?   • Instead,  we  provide  a  variety  of  out-­‐of-­‐class  ways  to  connect  with  the  
• Will  you  incorporate  the  Bible?   church  and  explore  faith  (see  document  on  Ongoing  Issues:  Connecting  
with  the  Broader  Church).      
• Will  there  be  opportunities  for  exploring  
faith  outside  of  class?   • Many  of  our  students  are  Catholic,  and  are  wary  of  a  program  that  is  
  overtly  “evangelical,”  but  are  very  willing  to  attend  a  simple  Bible  Study  
FINALLY:   or  an  informal  church  event  with  members  of  the  church.    These  are  
• How  will  these  choices  affect  who  will  likely   opportunities  to  find  common  ground  and  begin  conversations  on  faith.  
• How  will  they  affect  demands  on  your  
teachers  and  volunteers?  
Explore  and   Roles:   These  are  complex  questions  that  impact  the  core  of  how  
Make  Choices   • What  role  will  the  coordinator,  volunteers,  and  students   your  program  will  function,  since  most  of  the  time  that  
all  have  in  deciding  and  shaping  the  content  and   students  are  with  you  will  be  in  the  classroom.      
material?   As  with  every  other  part  of  program  design,  there’s  no  wrong  
Curriculum  &   or  right  answer  and  God  can  do  great  work  in  any  scenario!      
• What  is  the  volunteer’s  role  in  the  class?    What  does  
Materials   Just  consider  how  your  choices  match  up  with  the  vision  
he/she  do  before,  during,  after  class?  
God  has  given  you.  
• How  do  students  view  the  volunteer’s  role?  
• What  is  the  students’  role?   Check  out  the  document  “Curriculum  at  River  City”  for  a  walk  
• How  are  lessons  planned?     through  of  the  3  different  ways  that  we’ve  approached  
• What  kinds  of  materials  and  activities  will  be  used?    
curriculum  at  River  City  and  the  implications  of  each  one.  
• To  what  extent  do  students  decide  how  and  what  they’ll  
study?    To  what  extent  do  they  select  or  create  
materials?    How  could  they  participate  in  that  process?  
• How  could  you  emphasize  the  strengths  and  assets  
students  bring  to  the  class,  rather  than  what  they  need  
or  lack?  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010  


Content  &  Tools:  

• What  content  is  most  important  to  cover  during  the  
• What  will  be  the  organizing  principle  of  the  curriculum?    
(Grammar?    Functional  skills?    Real-­‐life  issues?    Topic  or  
subject  areas?)  
• Who  decides  these  things?    On  what  basis  are  these  
items  chosen  and  organized?  
• Will  lessons  build  on  one  another  or  be  self-­‐contained?  
• Would  you  prefer  to  use  Bible-­‐based  material,  popular  
language-­‐based  ESL  materials,  or  original  materials  
created  by  the  coordinator,  volunteers,  or  students?      
• Would  you  prefer  to  use  pre-­‐written  lesson  plans,  a  
textbook  and  teacher’s  guide,  or  merely  provide  tools  &  
resources  to  allow  volunteers  or  students  to  develop  
materials  on  their  own?  
• What  are  critical  tools  volunteers  and  students  might  
need  for  success  in  planning  and  carrying  out  classes?  
• How  is  evaluation  done?  
• Who  decides  what  outcomes  are  acceptable?  
• What  is  students’  role  in  evaluating  their  learning?  
• How  might  your  answers  to  all  these  questions  affect:  
student  commitment,  ownership,  and  empowerment;  
demands  on  and  satisfaction  of  teachers;  your  definition  
of  “effective”;  authentic  relationship  building;  church  or  
funder  support;  administrative  burden?  

Kim  Howe  -­‐  -­‐  -­‐  ©  2010