How to Teach English Overseas and Be a Missionary Too

teach english overseas TEAM
Teaching overseas is opening up new doors to share the gospel in countries around the world. Photo by TEAM.

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 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 quickly as one month, but it is recognized internationally.

Where can I use my TESOL certification?

Locally

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.

Globally

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 Thailand.

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 are connecting 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 350 ways you can teach overseas. Where will you go be a teacher?

Teach English Overseas

 

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About the author

Jessica Hulbert
Jessica Hulbert

Jessica is Michigan girl born and raised. She currently works with TEAM as a missions coach, helping people pursue their calling as they walk with God to reach people all over the globe. She has been on 10 different mission trips, including London, South Africa and three trips to Guatemala City. She has a passion for learning about and immersing herself in other cultures. She believes by crossing cultures we see such a bigger picture of God.

18 Comments

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  • 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

  • Hi Lynda!

    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!

  • Hi Lisa,

    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!

    Jessica

  • 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?

    • Hi Robyn,

      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.

  • Dear Jessica,

    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.

    • Hello Mallory!

      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: mobilization@team.org. 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!

      Kristin

  • 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.

    • 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

  • Hi Farrah,

    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.
    https://team.org/serve/kingdom-professionals/

    Let us know if you have more questions!

  • Hello,

    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,

    Dan Oville

    • 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!

      God bless,
      Alyssa

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