How do we Reach our Hispanic and Latino Neighbors?
As I meet with churches, this is the question of the day. Why is the answer to this question important to the life of the church?
The Numbers: Pew Research report.
- The Latino population in the United States reached nearly 58 million in 2016 and has been the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth, accounting for half of national population growth since 2000.
- The Latino population has evolved during this time, with changes in immigration, education, and other characteristics.
- In 2016, Hispanics accounted for 18% of the nation’s population and were the second-largest racial or ethnic group behind whites.
- They are also the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, with a 2.0% growth rate between 2015 and 2016 compared with a 3.0% rate for Asians.
Misconceptions about the Hispanic/Latino community
- If you spend too much time listening to the news, you may wrongly assume that all Latinos and Hispanics are immigrants. The facts are sixty-six (66%) percent were born here.
- You may assume many Latinos/Hispanics don’t speak English. The fact is seventy-seven (77%) are bilingual.
- Latinos/Hispanics are an economic force in this country to the tune of $1.3 Trillion.
How do we reach this critical community?
I like to keep things simple. If you want to reach Latino families, it is all about relationships. To make this even more concrete, here are some practical ideas.
- Visit places that the population also frequents.
The best way to connect with any foreign people group is to spend time where they hang out. Learn their culture their language, eat their food, and celebrate their holidays. So, get used to the smell and taste of Chipotle and Tequila.
2. Create a welcoming, inclusive environment.
If you don’t speak the language, hire a full-time or part-time bilingual staff person, perhaps a receptionist. Someone warm and friendly to make first contact. Have Latinos and Hispanics share their talents in music and display arts from their culture in the building.
Ensure your phone system has an English and Spanish option for leaving messages. When you send out mailings or announcements, make sure there is a Spanish version. I have a Google translator on my blog so people can read my blog in their language. While it is not perfect, it is a start.
3. Integrate your Latino families into the life of the church community.
One of the best things you can do is ensure your leadership reflects the community. In worship, include songs in English and Spanish. In every area of ministry, include these new families.
4. Playing to our Strength.
As a church, we do schools well. Like many others, Latino families care deeply about their children’s future. The Pew Research Center shares this data.
- Today, 86% of Hispanic parents and 79% of black parents with children under 18 say their children must earn a college degree. By comparison, about two-thirds (67%) of white parents say the same.
- This gap may be linked to differing views on a college degree’s importance in Moving up the economic ladder.
- Roughly half (49%) of Hispanics and 43% of blacks say that a college education is a requirement to be part of the middle class, compared with just 22% of whites.
- However, white adults are more likely than black or Hispanic adults to already be in the middle class or higher, which may partly account for the fact that fewer whites see college as essential.
The potential to have a kingdom impact on the Hispanic community lies before us. Are we ready to take up the challenge? Then, they build relationships, create an inclusive community, and provide the educational opportunities they seek for their families. The mission field is right outside our doors and exploding. And we have this commissioning from Jesus in Acts 7. “7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”