Literacy & Evangelism International

Here are some of the questions we are most frequently asked.

Please click on a question to read the answer to it.

What are some benefits of literacy?

Learning to read is a stepping stone in one's life. The ability to read opens doors to knowledge and personal development. As a person learns to read he is able to improve his life. It is like a ladder which takes the individual to higher and higher levels. For example, a new reader can fill out a job application and apply for a better job. The new reader can gain knowledge about better farming methods to increase his harvest. The new reader finds the opportunity for better health as he reads about an immunization program for his children. Literacy opens doors to help both the newly literate and his family to become the most useful citizens possible.

How does literacy relate to discipleship?

A literacy program is an essential means of helping Christians grow in their faith. The Christian who is unable to read the Bible is cut off from a primary means of spiritual nourishment. Learning to read the Bible is the #1 motivation for Christians wishing to throw off the bonds of illiteracy.

Learning to read with Bible-content materials is helping the Christian achieve the goal of reading the Word. We encourage every Christian to become a daily reader of God's Word. It is important to spiritual vitality and development. John Wesley once said, "It is impossible to grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading (the Bible)."

How does literacy assist in starting new congregations?

A "literacy & evangelism" program can help to plant churches. Literacy classes can be an excellent tool to begin a new congregation, especially in those parts of the world where illiteracy is 50% or higher. During the literacy class, the tutor has several opportunities to witness about Christ. Once the class completes the LEI primer, the participants can begin reading simple Scripture portions, often available from the Bible Society. This "Bible reading class" can further develop into a Bible study for new readers. This becomes the core group for a new congregation.

Literacy classes can also be a "low-key" approach in places where direct preaching is difficult or in areas where people are not receptive. Literacy meets a felt need and can be the bridge to building relationships. People see that the tutor is concerned with them and cares enough to teach. This relationship opens the door for Christian witness. As mentioned above, there is a Bible reference in each lesson, stories about Jesus in Lesson 12 and following and 26 simplified Bible stories at the end of the primer. So from the beginning, the tutor has the opportunity to share the Good News.

How does the LEI program help the tutor?

By becoming a tutor, a Christian has the opportunity to serve the Lord in a meaningful and productive way. Every believer has different gifts. Not everyone can sing in the choir. Not everyone is a gifted evangelist speaking to large crowds. However by learning how to use the LEI materials and teaching a non-reader, the tutor is equipped to do ministry.

The tutor's own faith is strengthened as he reaches out in love to help another person who is trapped in the bondage of illiteracy. He sees the Lord providing wisdom to help meet the needs of the non- reader. He sees the Lord answering prayer on his behalf and on behalf of the learner. He sees how God can use him to make a difference in the life of another person by teaching an essential skill.

In addition, if the tutor is working with a non-Christian, the tutor is actually participating in the work of evangelism through the means mentioned above: reading a short passage of Scripture, discussing it with the learner, telling what Christ has done for the tutor, praying with and for the non-reader etc. In these ways the tutor is sharing the Gospel.

How do literacy and evangelism relate to one another?

The name "Literacy and Evangelism" is the name of a mission which links those two concepts together. Our ministry opens eyes which are blinded to words written in books through literacy. At the same time, LEI primers contain a lot of biblical material. First, there is a Scripture reference (for example John 3:16) printed in every lesson. The tutor reads this Scripture and discusses it as part of the literacy lesson. Second, in Lesson 12 and following, there is a short story about Jesus as part of the reading material. These simple stories convey truths about His life as well as concepts of love, forgiveness, sin and salvation. Third, the last 26 reading portions are all simplified passages of Scripture (3 from the O.T. and 23 from the N.T.). The learner is actually reading the "Good News" about Jesus Christ. In these ways, evangelism is "built in" to every LEI primer.

In addition, there is time during the literacy lesson for "witness." A typical lesson lasts 1.5 hours and consists of: 1) reading, 2) writing, 3) review and 4) witness. During the "witness" the tutor speaks with the learner about the Scriptures and can also share something of his/her testimony. Dr. Rice, the founder of LEI, called this "the most important part of the literacy lesson." It is an opportunity to lift up Christ, who said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all people unto me."

Through these means, a new reader is introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many non-readers are finding new life in Him in addition to learning how to read.

Is literacy being used to start churches? Where?

Yes, literacy is a wonderful tool to begin new churches. One ministry in India effectively used literacy to begin over 10,000 new churches over a span of two decades. Another ministry in Cambodia started 10 new churches as a result of the year-long literacy program. There are many examples in Africa, Asia and South America of literacy as a means of beginning new congregations.

Is there a biblical basis for literacy ministry?

The word "Bible" comes from the Greek and means "book." Christians are closely related to the Word of God. The Bible contains many commands such as these: "read, study, meditate upon, memorize, obey."

One example in the Old Testament is found in Joshua 1:8 where we read,

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

One example in the New Testament is found in Matthew 4:4. Here Jesus counters the temptation of Satan to "turn these stones into bread" but quoting from the Old Testament,

"Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

The Lord Jesus is called the "Living Word" whom we learn about in the Written Word. Eight times in the Gospels He posed this question, "Have you never read?" He expected people to read and know the Scripture.

The aged apostle Paul would write to Timothy with these words from II Tim. 3:15-17,
"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

How does LEI help with literacy?

Since 1967, LEI has produced Bible-content, adult literacy primers in over 200 languages and dialects. These simple "readers" are used by volunteer tutors to teach a person how to read/write his own language. Literate volunteers from local churches attend a brief training and are then able to teach non-readers in a one-on-one or group setting.

How can the LEI program build bridges into the community?

The LEI ministry is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to people. The basic need of literacy is felt by millions of people in the world. A church, mission or organization which offers reading classes will attract people who cannot read or write. In so doing we can establish relationships with people and offer a useful social skill. Virtually everyone recognizes the benefits of learning to read as a stepping stone to betterment for oneself and family.

What do you mean by literacy?

Literacy means the ability to read and write. In our world today there are at least 1 billion illiterate people (those who cannot read/write their own language) and many more functionally illiterate (those unable to read/write well enough to function in society). LEI estimates that about half the world is unable to read the Bible.

What is LEI?

LEI stands for "Literacy & Evangelism International." We are a faith mission which helps people around the world to read so they can become daily Bible readers.

How can I begin an English ministry at my church?

Research your community to determine needs.

  1. Locate as many potential students (learners) from an ethnic community within the radius of your church.
    1. Contact ethnic congregations that exist and are a worshipping congregation.
      Talk with the ethnic pastor about the English need for members in church.
    2. Check with local elementary schools: determine what percentage are non-English speakers or who have parents that need English. Most teachers are cooperative.
    3. Check with local library and their programs: do they have extra learners to share?
    4. Check with other ESL programs: Laubach, LVA, & other Christian programs.

  2. Seek other churches that have existing outreaches.
    1. Why reinvent the wheel? Join them for the experience and extra training before starting your ministry in your church.
    2. Don't push Passport to the World of English on them if they're using another curriculum.
    3. Attend other workshops to improve and broaden your skills and knowledge.
      1. Laubach Literacy Action (LLA) has state workshops as well as biennial national meetings. Join $10 or so and receive their newsletter.
      2. LVA has tutor-training workshops at libraries and community centers
      3. Many large cities have "literacy councils" that provide training
      4. Southern Baptists lead excellent workshops at their churches

Secure support from your pastor (and staff) and church leadership.

  1. Share Passport, your training and especially your VISION for your church ministry.
  2. Secure their approval of your mission as part of the church's mission to the community.
    • Missions and Evangelism committees should be contacted
    • Contact adult study groups in church who could be:
      • prayer partners
      • language helpers

  3. Ask for future funding of the ESL ministry if a resource library is needed for your tutors.

How can I start a literacy program?

The following is an approximate description of the time and responsibilities involved in setting up an adult literacy ministry in cooperation with Literacy & Evangelism International (LEI). It assumes that a church or a group of churches requests the services of one LEI trainer to set up a local literacy program.

LEI follows a 10-step process:

1. Identify Needs and Resources

Who: LEI trainer and a committee from your church

What: Analysis of community needs, literacy ministry opportunities, what literacy services already are offered, how you and the local literacy projects can cooperate; identification of at least 12 persons from your church who are committed to being trained as tutors and tutoring for at least one year; identification of a suitable site(s) in which to hold the workshop and tutor students

Time: Approximately one week

2. Identify and Recruit Students

Who: LEI trainer, church leaders, local literacy and adult education leaders

What: Seek out and interview potential students

Time: Needs to be started before the workshop for tutors is held; ongoing thereafter; usually can be started as part of Step 1 (above)

3. Select and Prepare Appropriate Instructional Materials

Who: LEI trainer

What: Estimates the amount of Firm Foundations (the LEI Bible-based primers) materials that will be needed; suggests other Bible-related materials to be used (i.e. American Bible Society materials for adult literacy students); prepares workshop handouts best suited to your community's literacy needs.

Time: Approximately one week

4. Screen and Orient Students

Who: LEI trainer for first group; a local volunteer thereafter (will be trained by LEI trainer)

What: Interview and assess potential students' reading and writing needs, interests, and abilities

Time: Approximately 3 days prior to the workshop through 5 days after the workshop

5. Recruit and Train Tutors

Who: Local community recruits tutors; LEI trainer conducts the workshop

What: Included in

Time: Workshop is 10 hours long

Location: Where tutoring will be done (neighborhood reading center)

6. Immediately Match Students and Tutors

Who: LEI trainer

What: Analyzes skills and availability of students and tutors and assigns student-tutor pairs

Time: During and immediately following the workshop

7. Develop a Reading Library According to Students' Needs and Interests

Who: Local literacy leaders (volunteers who agree to take on the organization and running of the program) in consultation with LEI trainer, library literacy specialist, others

What: Set up a resource library of materials chosen according to student and tutor needs

Time: Ongoing, after workshop

8. Develop an Organizational Structure for Maintaining the Program

Who: Sponsoring church in consultation with LEI trainer

What: Decide what leadership the literacy program requires (coordinator, record-keeper, someone to order materials, etc.)

Time: Begun during first week (Step 1) and completed by end of workshop

9. Regularly Refer Students and/or Tutors to Other Literacy, Evangelism, or Bible Study Programs

Who: Local literacy leaders (ones chosen in Step 8)

What: Find and inform students about suitable programs to which they can go to continue their basic education and/or Christian education

Time: Ongoing, beginning after first workshop

10. Evaluate and Adjust the Literacy Project

Who: LEI trainer

What: Meet with students, tutors, literacy leaders to find out how things are going, suggest modifications

Time: One or 2 months after the workshop (LEI trainer usually spends about a week onsite, carrying out the evaluation and helping local literacy leaders make or plan for needed adjustments); then 6 months after the workshop (LEI trainer spends another week onsite); then ongoing by sponsor


Once the preliminary meeting has been held and the church decides to go ahead with a literacy program, plan for a six-week period for recruitment and publicity activities; a two-week period for interviews, training, and matching of students and tutors; then a week-long follow-up one or two months later. The LEI trainer would come to your community four times, as detailed above.


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