How to Teach English Overseas and Be a Missionary Too
We all have gifts that God has given us to effectively share the Gospel. Have you ever considered that your fluency in English is one of them?
Today, more and more people are getting certified in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and using it overseas to meet practical needs and make disciples.
Kristin Dykstra, a TEAM missions coach serving in Illinois, majored in TESOL at Moody Bible Institute and now equips others to use English education in global missions. Her love for TESOL first grew while participating in a student exchange program in Russia, teaching English to non-native speakers. Since then, she has used her TESOL degree in the United States, Italy and South Korea.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to teach English overseas, read on for some insights we gleaned from Kristin about the needs, the opportunities and next steps in pursuing TESOL.
Why has teaching English become a need?
Kristin puts it this way, “We live in a globalized world. More and more we’re seeing many people of all nations living in the [United States] and vice versa. It’s even bigger than that. … [It’s a] migration movement, and with movement, we need good communication.” And for much of the world, the English language is a common denominator.
Can I just go teach? Or do I need training in TESOL?
You don’t necessarily need to have TESOL training. But to teach English for any extended period of time, you should. Here’s why:
Getting a TESOL certification is really about preparing yourself to teach with excellence.
Kristin says, “My main passion is that, when it comes to overseas opportunities, teachers are very well-trained and really know how to teach with excellence. We never want to take away the opportunity from a national [teacher]; however, many countries do want native English speakers to fill these kinds of positions.”
And more importantly, a well-trained teacher shows a commitment to Christ: “We want to represent Christ and do things to the best of our ability. The same is true with teaching English. We get adequate training to best help the people we’re going to serve. And it turns into a relationship through that.”
There are two ways to get TESOL training: through a college degree program or a certification course.
Kristin explains, “One of the best ways is to major in either TESOL or in Education with a focus in TESOL while in undergrad. This gives you a full sense of grammar and how to teach and how to design curriculum. Not all schools have TESOL programs, but it’s becoming more and more common. You could also get an education degree with a focus on TESOL.”
Alternatively, there are many certification courses offered both online and in person. The best-known course is a Cambridge course called CELTA. It’s an intense certification getting you certified as quickly as one month, but it is recognized internationally.
Where can I use my TESOL certification?
There are opportunities to teach English locally through refugee resettlement agencies. Other opportunities are available with community centers — especially in diverse neighborhoods. Check out your local community center to see if there is a need and how you can help.
A second avenue is to teach in a school system. A full teaching position may require a degree, but being certified could allow you to teach after-school programs as well.
Teaching English can take you across the world. Many of the opportunities are in the Middle East and Asia. Europe is seeing a greater need as well because of many refugees resettling in European countries.
TEAM partners with schools overseas that are actively searching for TESOL-certified individuals to come and serve in places like Spain, Taiwan or Ukraine.
How does teaching English overseas spread the Gospel?
Teaching English allows missionaries to provide a service that meets a tangible need. This is important as many countries legally prohibit religious workers. The platform of teaching provides a legitimate way for missionaries to enter a country.
And, ultimately, teaching builds relationships with dozens of students, parents and co-workers that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. This happens in places like the Czech Republic, where middle school teachers connect with students and staff from more than 30 towns and villages. Or in places like Chad, where English teachers are connecting with Muslims who have never heard the Gospel.
The opportunities to make an eternal impact through teaching English are real and wide open. Consider one of the over 250 ways you can teach overseas. Where will you go be a teacher?
36 CommentsLeave a comment
Good work on this article. TESOL is certainly an important part of our ministry here in Guadalajara, Mexico to help people learn English and to connect with them on a deeper level. Paul
What is the best and most cost effective TESOL course to take? And which ones should be avoided?
Hi- I too would say Celta is the best- it is intensive, student skill- centered,not teacher centered.Highly focused and hard work but worth it for every penny.Even if you are a teacher, this program helps you to step away from your established teaching practices- painful but necessary. If you take CELTA, go in open to a new learning experience– and have your own printer!! Eat well, rest, help other students and take advantage of the wisdom of all the esl students you will teach- they will help you more than you will help them!!! and with a smile….
The best TESOL course one could take is CELTA. It’s internationally recognized and does a great job of training people!
All courses are great and I wouldn’t say there is one to avoid. Try to stay away from ones that sound like a “quick fix” to a certification. You really need intentional and in-depth training to be most effective in TESOL. CELTA seems to offer that best.
Hope this is helpful!
Is TEFAL certification used also?
yes! There are TEFAL opportunities overseas. I’m not sure of any specifically within TEAM, but if you have the certification i’m sure there are fields that would love to put it to use!
I teach sixth grade English currently. Last year I went through an ESOL certification, its now on my certificate..is that sufficient to come and work with your organization? I’ve been teaching nine years.I would love to come in the summer this year. Are ther opportunities for summer work?
Exciting that you have received this certification! You are certainly on the right path.
There are opportunities for summer missionary work, and we are actively working to fill them now. The next step is to browse opportunities online at opportunities.team.org to see if any pique your interest. I would also highly recommend filling out the contact form at http://www.team.org/contact. Within a business day or so, someone from our staff will be in touch to help you start the process of finding a good service opportunity for you.
I was just searching the internet about how God could possibly use my TESOL skills for His glory. Would you mind emailing me if you have a chance? I will be graduating with my masters’ degree in TESOL in 2017 and am looking for opportunities to use it for a larger purpose than money.
Thank you so much.
We are so thankful that this blog helped you see some of the various ways in which your training can be used! We’d love for you to connect with us through this e-mail: email@example.com. Then, a missions coach near your area will follow up with you about your specific training and ways in which you can use that training to glorify God. Thanks for reaching out!
I am a professional musician and teacher interested in serving in France for six months to a year. Does TEAM do work in France as well? I have toured extensively in France and my heart really goes out to the people there. My skills are in teaching. I would be a working musician while there as well.
Jeremy, this is wonderful! Thanks for reaching out. TEAM does have a ministry area in France. You can learn more at france.team.org. I also recommend talking to a TEAM missions coach. They can answer your questions about becoming a missionary and help you find an opportunity to serve. Just fill out a contact form at http://www.team.org/contact to get started.
May I ask, how are you financially supported when working with TEAM as an abroad teacher?
Hi Farrah! Great question. Most TEAM missionaries raise financial support through their church and personal networks. TEAM helps missionaries access the tools and resources they need to do this well. However, there are a handful of teaching positions that are funded through the school, meaning missionaries have little or no extra support to raise. I would encourage you to reach out to a TEAM missions coach to get the conversation started about teaching opportunities! Your coach will be able to answer all of your questions. Start the conversation here: http://www.team.org/missionscoach
It depends on the position and location. A majority of TEAM’s roles are support raised roles. However, there are some teaching positions that receive a salary or stipend. We also have an avenue of ministry called Kingdom Professionals that would be worth looking into. A majority of our positions for that currently are education opportunities.
Let us know if you have more questions!
I actually added your blog to my favorites list and look forward to get the same quality content every time I visit your blog. Thanks a lot.
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I am a Canadian TESOL certified English teacher who currently teach in the People’s Republic of China. I have always been inclined to work in missions. In fact, my reason for taking the TESOL certification course is because of my desire to work as a self-supporting missionary. During the summers of 2003 and 2004, I led a team from Canada to pioneer an English Day Camp in Haje District of Prague, Czech Republic where we worked with a TEAM missionary and his family, Mark Potma. From those humble beginnings where we started with 5 campers in 2003, I heard this summer activity is now drawing more and more campers and is now really going strong.
I have been in China for over six years now and just last summer, the Lord gave me this urgently to serve Him in the mission field. Since I also have a Bible School training, I would also add this to my qualifications. I would like to know if there are opportunities out there for me to be a self-supporting English teacher. I also have quite an extensive experience teaching American History to Chinese students who desire to apply for admission to American colleges and universities plus experience in teaching Bible History, Old Testament History and Ancient History after I graduated from the Bible School.
I need your help to find me the mission where the Lord wants to send me. Thank you very much.
Ever in Christ,
Hello Dan! Sounds like you have a lot of great experience! If you’re interested in serving with TEAM, I would suggest reaching out to one of our mission coaches. They can help answer any questions you may have about serving and help you figure out next steps to take. To get started, visit https://team.org/missionscoach. Hope this helps!
I was mentored by TEAM missionaries when I was at Cal Poly (SLO). I am now in North Asia working at a university started by a believer. We would love to have TEAM send us teachers. Each year there are openings in University ESL, K-12 ESL and teaching university level business, leadership, sports, music, history, composition, etc.
Let us know how we can partner to receive a TEAM!
Aaron, that is awesome! Thanks for sharing and for your interest in receiving TEAM workers! The next best step would be to fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page: https://team.org/contact. This way, we can ensure that you can get connected with the right person who will be able to answer your questions. May God continue to grow and work in your team and ministry!
Hi, I am a mature teacher who has worked overseas in Uganda, Engliand and also The north West Territories in canda. I am a CELTA trained teacher. As I am on my onw with no income, I must earn my way. There are not many here who can afford to support me but I feel God’s call and know I have to seek Him. I am looking for a paid position in Bhutan to work with women and children, teaching English? I have taught ESL for several years for a diversity of classes, but most of all love working with women and children- it does not matter where I live or how simple an accomodation. This year I taught a class which had many women from Bhutan and Nepal- my happiest class! In Uganda my living was simple, and those were my happiest years!! God placed me in an international school and my neighbouring teacher was a pastor’s wife. I began to fund raise in 2009, and by 2016 a four room classroom was built for the orphanage. Do i know how to fund raise? No… but God led and I was so very happy to follow. A small home for a young mother and her child is now also being completed.2 young people have gone through University and one has now his music diploma; all three are now reaching out to others.
I am 61 and people have a tendency to overlook older teachers. But I am in good health with years and years of literacy and teaching experience and long to serve God whatever my age.
Can you help me with any information or contacts?
Hello, Fiona! Thank you for your years of service with the Lord and your desire to continue to spread the Gospel around the world! If you want to explore your opportunities with TEAM, you can visit https://team.org/missionscoach to speak with one of our missions coaches about potential next steps. Hope this helps!
In His service,
I am a TESOL CERTIFIED teacher from Nepal . I am looking for an opportunity to teach abroad. Could you please help me for it?
Hello, thank you for reaching out. I’m so glad to hear that God has placed a desire in your heart to serve Him! The best place to get started would be to check out available opportunities around the world at opportunities.team.org
However, please keep in mind that TEAM is a North American sending agency and their employees are therefore subject to U.S. labor laws. Because of TEAM’s status as a “Non-Profit Organization” before the U.S. Government and related government restrictions, they are limited to accepting only U.S. or Canadian citizens and valid green card holders.
TEAM trusts that you are understanding of this policy and that you will continue to pursue other avenues for serving the Lord through your local church and/or a sending agency within your own country. May God bless you as you seek guidance for your future ministry!
I run a bible school in Brazil, I would like to consider a partnership to have a english teacher in the school.
Hi, Pastor Ivailton! If you’re interested in working with TEAM, please fill out the connection form at team.org/contact. That’s the best way to start a conversation about how we might work together!
Would not an Early Childhood Development degree be sufficient? Or would it just depend on the region? Do we have to get the TESOL Certificate? I am eventually wanting to teach in Asia, would I need it for that area?
Thanks for asking, Abigail. It depends less on the region and more on the program you’re teaching through. Some require TESOL certification, while others don’t. Either way, the TESOL certification gives you a good foundation for teaching ESL. If you want to talk with someone more in depth about your options, a missions coach could help you out.
I’m B.A in Political Science as well as I did my Bachelor in Divinity too.
However, I do not have TESOL/TEFL, so is there any oppportunity for me in your missions?
Hi, Sangte! Some of our roles require TESOL certification, and others do not. It depends on the needs of the field. For example, a school setting is more likely to require certiciation. If you go to opportunities.team.org and search ESL, you can check out what we have available right now!
I have a Ph.D. in Reading Education and would be very interested in teaching Reading to children as a paid position and also offering ESOL reading lessons to adults as a missionary. Let me know where such is possible. Thank you, Carol
Hi, Carol! We could definitely use your skills on the field! Unfortunately, most of our opportunities require you to raise personal support funds — but we do provide all the training and resources you need to do it well. I know it’s intimidating (I’ve been there!), but we have seen God provide in pretty amazing ways, even during COVID-19.
So, if you’re interested, I would encourage you to search for ESL positions on our opportunities page — just see the possibilities. And if you have questions about raising support, I’d also encourage you to talk with one of our missions coaches. We’ve walked with a lot of people through this process, and I’m certain we could help you, too!
I’m Sueli from Brazil. I’m pastor’s wife who is leading a church in Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro state. We’re in a Presbiterian Church that’s reformed based on Calvino and puritans teaching.
I’ve taught english for 2 years a time ago. I’m planning to come back to teach English. I’m planning to teach for missionaries. There’s an agency here in Brazil that is foccused on overseas mission. So, we have missionaries in Croatia, Romenia, Spain, Italy and so on. Also, I’d really like to teach English for that ones who’s not believers.
How can I be part of TEAM? IS there some training, resources or something?
Hi Sueli! Thanks for contacting TEAM. I might suggest you look at THIS mission opportunity through TEAM. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a form that will connect you with a TEAM Missions Coach and I would encourage you to fill that out to start the conversation with TEAM. Also, you might explore TEAM’s SERVE page for extra resources and guides. I hope this helps.
I’ll check it out.