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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: Error #4 Organizational Structure

Monday, August 17, 2009

I received a phone call late one afternoon.  “Pastor Art, our church has voted to ask the Spanish ministry to vacate the building.  They refuse to leave.  Can you help us?”

I visited the church the following Sunday, attended the Spanish speaking service and met with the Spanish Ministry pastor over lunch.

“Pastor Garcia, what is happening here?”

“Pastor Lucero, my wife and I were invited by this church to reach the Spanish speaking people in this community.  I was told that we would be one church with one membership. But when this ministry outgrew the English speaking ministry, I was given the membership applications of our people and told to leave.”

The issue here is will you be one church with one membership or multiple independent churches sharing the same facility. Failure to make this determination before you launch an immigrant ministry will lead to frustration and hard feelings.

From my perspective I prefer the one church with one membership model.  Here are the benefits to this model.

Benefits to the host church.

  • It expands its outreach to the immigrant community in their language and cultural context.
  • It allows for the increase of ethnic diversity as it ministers to the English-speaking extended family members of the immigrant congregation.
  • It allows for the breakdown of racial barriers as members are encouraged to love one another as Christ loved us.

Benefits to the immigrant church.

  • It provides facilities suitable for local church ministry.
  • It provides ministries for it’s children, youth and other extended family members that are predominately English speaking.
  • It provides a full time salaried position for its pastor much sooner than if they were independent.
  • It allows for the breakdown of racial barriers as members are encouraged to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • It benefits from the services that are provided by the host church, ministries for English speaking family members, payroll, benefits, facility maintenance, basic administration, and equipment repair and replacement.

Some denominations prefer to use the independent church model.  The strategy is to ask a local church to allow the use of their facilities either for a specified period of time or until the immigrant church is self-sustaining and able to rent or build its own facilities.

Benefit to the Host Church

  • It feels good that it is assisting a mission church plant.

Disadvantage to the Host Church

  • It doesn’t allow for the increase of its ethnic diversity.
  • It doesn’t allow for the breakdown of racial barriers.
  • It increases the frustration of members who endure the sharing of facilities until the mission church is asked to leave.

Benefit to the Mission Church

  • It provides facilities suitable for local church ministry.

Disadvantage to the Mission Church

  • It must create programs for its English speaking youth.
  • It doesn’t allow for the breakdown of racial barriers.
  • Church planters must work outside of the church to support their family.
  • As the ministry grows the mission pastor finds it difficult to work with the host church as he senses that his welcome has been worn out.  Conflicts tend to ensue over facility use.
  • Conflicts can result in the mission church being asked to leave prematurely.

The organizational model you select greatly impacts the relationship between host and immigrant ministries.  Determine what it is you want to accomplish by launching an immigrant ministry and then decide on the model that will best help you attain your objectives.

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

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