Monday, October 26, 2009

TCFL - Teaching Churches Foreign Languages

The Idea

I mentioned before about a conversation that I had with a church leader about his desire to see his church learn another language.

This thought has grabbed my attention so I thought what would I do if I pastored in the states again. Perhaps if any church needing a pastor reads my blog it would take care of that possibility but here goes the thought.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a program that many universities and language schools have throughout the world. I guess our new institute can be called TCFL (Teaching Churches Foreign Languages) Okay, so that was bad. I really do not have a institute but this is the idea. How can a church learn a foreign language?

I guess before we get to the “how” we need to look at why would we even consider such a thing.

Many churches today that I work with have an interest in reaching a particular people group with the gospel. They have been going on short term trips all over the place and I hear quite often they are tired of being spread out and they are ready to focus their efforts.

As they think about the “going” implications they also realize that in many cases those same peoples live in North America and often in their own cities. They begin to think about how can they connect with them in their own community. Therefore when they are putting together their mission strategy they are thinking both where they are and in other parts of the world.

They are also saying that they feel the Great Commission belongs to the church and that they need to be doing more and outsourcing missions less. They want to be involved strategically.

With this being the context one key aspect of cross cultural missions is how do you have an incarnational presence amongst the people? Language obviously is one element of that. These churches are thinking "how can we be better prepared?" If it is one person or a family then they normally arrive on the field and start language school for an amount of time until they can become proficient in the target language. What needs to happen if you do this for an entire church?

Here are a few foundational points that I think are very important if you are really serious about TCFL.

Vision of leadership - I believe key leaders in the church have to have the vision to see this as important. I think if they are trying to learn the language and using the language themselves it will go a long way in creating ownership of the vision to the people. Some how the church has to constantly put this vision before the people on a regular basis. More ideas on this in another post.

Time and Resources- The church has to find some ways to put this into the two important value checkers: their calendar and their resources.

Think Small Groups - One of the best places to start is with the small group structure of the church. Perhaps it is with the first groups going out locally or internationally.

Committed locally and internationally- It is important to be trying to find ways to minister to the people in that language group locally. So this means the church needs to focus on the group(s) they are wanting to work with.

Identify your language talent in your church. Chances are you have some people in your church that are fluent other languages. Discover those people and the languages that they speak and start working with them.

I will post some ideas on how to see this happen soon.


almost an M said...

Great idea! Making a commitment to a people and placing emphasis on being students of the language, history, culture, and current events would be very helpful in facilitating mission to that people. To show top level buy-in, it would be interesting to do a series that is titled in the language of the people the church is seeking to win to Christ. This could help move mission from an afterthought to receiving emphasis that we value others and seeing their lives transformed by Christ.
One practical way to facilitate this would be to have Berlitz or Rosetta Stone type materials available in the target language to be borrowed. Or perhaps a discount off a future short-term trip based on amounts spent on language acquisition....

Larry said...

I like your student though. I know of some churches that will either have some sort of mid-week programming for adults or churches that will do a special emphasis on a topic. What about a 3 week series of electives: Language, Culture, Current Events, Cooking, Religion, History, etc. about the country or people group?
More ideas on the way about some practical ways that a church can learn a foreign language.