Some things just creep up on you …
Though the statistics in the video below date back to 2010, the information is invaluable. The question is, how will the church respond? Watch the video and then continue reading to engage in a conversation about how the church is responding. (Click the video screen to view.)
Too often we find the church responding in one of three ways:
(1) Denial. I served as pastor in a church and, as was my custom, I pulled the demographics from MissionInsite to see who my parishioners were. The report showed that Hispanics made up about a third of the town. But when I shared that with the congregation, their response was, “Besides at the Mexican restaurant, we don’t have anyone in town who’s Latin.” Never mind that clerk in the store next door was a second generation El Salvadorean.
(2) Fright. Some congregations see the increase of the Hispanic population as a threat. Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict how a frightened congregation will respond. Some do so by behaving badly. Some try to ignore the change until they are confronted some years later with the fact that their neighborhood has changed… then they often relocate or close.
(3) Wishful Thinking. These churches are those that decide they need to offer a Hispanic ministry, but are ill-equipped, ill-informed, and ill-realists (okay, I made the last word up). They think that by offering some social ministry designed to reach their new neighbors – often in the form of a handout about having a poverty mindset – that the grateful Latinos will become a part of the church. Others opt to start a worship service “for” the new demographic using the mistaken rationale that “if we build it, they will come.”
Christianity in and of itself is a missionary movement, but today’s missionary is you. The world has come to us. Denial, fright, and wishful thinking won’t get us far. Instead, a forward thinking, mission-focused church does its homework by getting to know their neighbors and learns to appreciate and appropriate the language, culture, ethos, values, rites, etc. of their “man of Macedonia.” Once they know their neighbors and have a relationship with them, a God-breathed vision will find birth, a strategic plan will be created, and a missionary venture will become a domestic ministry.
Question: In what ways have you seen churches respond to America’s changing demographics? Do you know examples of non-Hispanic churches that have successful 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation Hispanic ministries? Share your thoughts, questions, and experiences in the Comments section below.