With 58 million Hispanics in the U.S. according to a Pew Research Study and the second fastest growing racial group, a study on Hispanic Church Planting was in order. That study conducted by Lifeway Research was released on July 2019 found here and there were some surprises that a few of my friends and colleagues have already written on. Such articles can be found here and here. But since the release of the study, I also found some surprises that has kept me thinking. One that I would like to elaborate on is my first surprise. Stay with me.
When we were told the survey was going to denominational planters represented by the study's advisory council that consisted of representatives from Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Vineyard and others, I was sure we would get a range of ages.
The first surprise was that the planters who actually took the time to do the survey that was sent to a broad number of people across denominations were for the most part (80%) first generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants over 50 years old who identified predominately as Mexicans (24%). Seven out of ten of them (70%) started their church plants with the intention of reaching "ALL" Hispanic people and 64% of them were conducting services only in Spanish. Not so surprising was that 24% of the new church plants surveyed were in my new adopted home state of Florida.
My first thought was obviously that we need to do another study! I know way too many church planters who could have given us some crucial information but they either did not get the survey or did not think they fit the "criteria" to answer it. Which brings me to my second thought that there are many Hispanics who do not see themselves first as Hispanics or even as exclusively planting Hispanic churches. The survey also revealed that 73% of the first gen, immigrant churches had no plans to transition to English. Only 22% said they were considering either adding an English service or going to a bilingual service.
So here are the issues I have:
Juan Francisco Martinez shares the complexities of the Hispanic reality in his book, Walk with the People. It has served as a teaching tool for me with planters seeking to work with or plant Hispanic churches. There are a number of Latino Sub-Cultures that anyone looking to plant should be aware of. As has been said and written about extensively, Hispanics are not a monolith. The training of our church plant organizations have to help planters define who they are targeting and if they say, “we want to plant a Hispanic church” a new kind of training must take place where they can identify the various levels of Hispanic culture and identities. Rodriguez identifies seven types of identities in our culture:
I think it is time church planters (even Hispanic ones) know who they are and who their target population is. Take the time to identify the Hispanic in your Hispanic church planting dream so that you as the planter have a chance at succeeding with your goal and the myriad of Hispanics looking for a church that gets them can find you. They find you when you know the language they speak and how they identify in the complex world of Hispanic ministry. I am rooting for you!
 See Daniel A. Rodriguez, A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press), 16.
 See Juan Francisco Martinez, Walk with the People: Latino Ministry in the United States (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock), 5-8.