Wake Up and Smell the Café Con Leche!

by New Church Starts

by Rev. Gary Shockley, Executive Director of Path 1

There’s been a lot of press lately about how much America has changed in the past 20 years. A recent article in USA Today (August 10) reported that the number of people 18 years and younger is at an all-time low. The share of births by unmarried women has increased dramatically from 26 percent to 41 percent. The rise in the number of Hispanic and Asian residents has surpassed the increase anyone could have predicted 20 years ago.

A recent report given by Dionisio Salazar, staff member of the General Board of Global Ministries, to the Executive Committee meeting of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, included the following update:

“…the United States has continued to grow in population and change in social complexity, challenging the church to be responsive to the new social realities. The Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S. today is around 50.6 million (16.3 percent of the total population) and will constitute 30 percent of the total population by the year 2050.”

There’s a good chance many of us reading this blog may not be around in 2050. So, it would be tempting for older white folks like me to shrug off this emerging reality as someone else’s concern. Or perhaps, just maybe, as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we can choose to use our resources, influence, and privileges to work for the kinds of change that will help the church to adopt a multitude of strategies and initiatives to welcome the growing Hispanic/Latino population (and all people) with the good news of Jesus Christ. Dionisio pointed out in his report that, “research shows that Hispanic/Latinos in the United States are underserved, underprivileged, and underrepresented.”  I believe Christ compels us to get involved here.

I am so very grateful for my Hispanic/Latino friends who constantly remind me of the new realities 20 short years have brought to our country. In a partnering, not a paternalistic, kind of way, I want to work with my Hispanic/Latino sisters and brothers to help our church fully embrace these realities and respond with the justice, mercy, and compassion of Christ.

Path1 is committed to helping our annual conference leaders wake up and smell the coffee and, in partnership with the National Plan and our sister agencies, step up our efforts to reach new people, younger people, and more diverse people and help them become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Two resources may be of particular interest here:

  • Pentecost Journey (by Marigene Chamberlain and Melanie Lee Carey) helps churches develop comprehensive ministry plans that honor the uniqueness of the Hispanic/Latino cultures while considering the intercultural context of ministry in the United States.

  • Lay Missionary Planting Network (with curriculum available in English and Spanish) exists to find, equip and deploy lay people to start new faith communities in partnership with clergy and in populations and contexts in which traditional approaches have not proven fruitful.

How do you think new churches can respond to the changing demographics in America and live out their mission to all peoples? For more information on these and other Path1 resources visit http://www.path1.org/ or contact Samuel Rodriguez.