USA (MNN) — The last U.S. census in 2000 revealed that almost 47 million Americans spoke another language other than English. As the 2010 census anticipates even higher numbers, churches across America seek to bridge this language barrier and reach out to a more diverse population.
Michael Pasquale, the director of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Cornerstone University, said, "We have found that churches are becoming much more diverse, and churches are really looking at how [they can] practically meet the needs of their neighbors."
To aid these churches in this quest, Cornerstone is holding their 9th Annual ESL (English as a Second Language) Ministry Conference. This year's theme is Build A Life That Matters. And to help believers do this and have an impact on those around them, Pasquale said, "We need to be able to speak a language that [will help them] understand the truth of the Gospel, and that could even be through their first language. But English is a way to bring them through the door of the church to help build those relationships."
Pasquale called English a tool to simply connect with these individuals and help them connect with the church community. However, Cornerstone and Pasquale want to do this without the students losing their diversity in their heart language and culture.
For individuals who thinking they cannot teach English, Pasquale said, you don't have to be an expert.
"Some people are a little nervous that they're not grammar experts, but in many ways, church-based programs are conversation classes," he said.
Conference attendees will be trained to lead discussions and converse about spiritual matters. Also, the conference will demonstrate teaching techniques for people who have more experience in that area.
Cornerstone's President, Joe Stowell, is the keynote speaker. There will also be various workshops to help with each step in establishing a church-based TESOL program.
Early registration ends tomorrow. The cost is $50 per person, or $30 for students. After that, the price goes up to $60 and $35, respectively. Pasquale said this is an excellent price, as it includes breakfast, lunch and various ESL resources.