Posts Tagged ‘Immigrant Ministry’

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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: #5 Finances

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“Pastor Lucero, I have people in my office that need help now!  If they don’t pay their rent they will be out on the street.  This family can’t wait for all of the red tape and a weeks turnaround time for the church to cut a check. They need funds now!

In the Hispanic Community the pastor is the one his flock goes to for counsel on immigration assistance, legal matters, job placement, housing, and financial assistance.  In many Hispanic churches the pastor has access to the church checking account and provides funds to assist his people with groceries, utility bills, gas, and a late rent payment.

Because of the great temptation to misappropriate  funds it is in the best interest of pastors and members of their congregation if the pastor does not have access to church funds.   This is why many churches install procedures for the collection, banking, and oversight of the expenditures and benevolence in which many Pastors don’t play a role. Its intended to preserve his integrity and that of the church.

When working with immigrant pastors who are accustomed to distributing funds at their discretion our North American practice comes across as being insensitive and apathetic to the needs of the people. We can be accused of caring more for procedure than people

Here are some recommendations to deal with this issue.

  1. Create a policy and a process for the handling of church funds, especially as it pertains to benevolence assistance.
  2. Inform the immigrant pastor and his leadership of the church policies and procedures on the handling of benevolence funds.
  3. Encourage the pastor to educate their people on the importance of not waiting until the last minute to request assistance.
  4. Provide the necessary paperwork to gather the necessary information for a benevolence request.
  5. Appoint as soon as possible a leader in the immigrant church who will conduct the interview with the people who need assistance.
  6. Prepare a list of Community Service Organizations that can assist with emergency housing, food and other services to share with those in need.

How has your ministry dealt with this issue?

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

Art

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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: Error #3 Incompatible Doctrinal Views

Friday, April 10, 2009

“All in favor say ‘Aye’, opposed? Motion carried.  I’ll speak to pastor Hernandez about our decision” said Ralph Baker – Board Chairman

 “Ralph if you don’t mind I’d like to go along with you” stated Pastor Johnson.  “This is an exciting time in the life of our church and I don’t want to miss it.”

Pastor Johnson and Ralph Baker met with Pastor Hernandez in his home.

“Pastor Hernandez” said Ralph Baker, “when you came to us three years ago requesting the use of our facility to start a Spanish speaking church, well quite honestly, we were very suspicious.”

“Yes, but since then” said pastor Johnson, “we have seen the Lord bless your work. And the Board has unanimously agreed to invite you to join our church and denomination.”

Pastor Hernandez could sense the joy and hopeful expectation in the voice of his guests.  This made it more difficult for him to express his concerns.

“I am honored by your invitation, but I cannot accept it.”

Taken completely off guard, Pastor Johnson asked, “Why not?”

“Because some of our beliefs are not the same.  In fact I have been meaning to speak to you about our youth. We are grateful that you allow them to participate in your youth ministry.  But our leadership has decided to begin our own youth ministry.  It seems that your teaching on assurance of salvation has our young people confused and their parents are upset.”

Regardless of what many may think about the divisiveness of denominational lines to the unity of the body of Christ, the fact remains that people have been brought up to believe certain theological teachings we call doctrine.

Some local churches recognizing the need for an immigrant church in their community and wanting to launch such a ministry, will, out of expediency, accept the first immigrant pastor that seeks the use of their facilities without ever discussing the subject of doctrine or minimizing the doctrinal differences.

As long as there is no cross over in ministry between these two independent congregations, such as the youth of the immigrant church participating in the youth ministry or Sunday school of the English speaking church, doctrinal differences will be minimal.  But once the cross over begins, whether planned or spontaneous, doctrinal difference can be the source of major contention.

To avoid this pitfall carefully screen ethnic pastors regarding their doctrinal beliefs.  Where language is an issue consider:

  • Having a member of your congregation that is bi-lingual translate for you as you screen candidates.
  • Contacting an immigrant pastor with your doctrinal beliefs to help you screen prospective candidates.
  • Contacting the Director of Church Planting for your fellowship or denomination to provide you with an ethnic pastor or to help you screen prospective candidates.

In the case of a multi-ethnic English speaking church, as with any homogenous church, some families with different doctrinal views will attend and maybe even join the church.  This situation is different from that mentioned above.  In this case families have willingly, knowing the doctrinal differences, joined the church for a personal or family benefit or blessing that they were not receiving in the church they left.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.

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Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 3 The Seven Fatal Errors of Ethnic Ministry: Error #1 – Lack of Unity

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Many conflicts between a host and immigrant church are the result of unfulfilled expectations. Unfulfilled because they were not expressed and written down prior to launching the immigrant ministry.

Here is a three step process I use to create a spirit of unity.  It takes me an average of eight months to walk a church through the first two steps.

1.  SOW the Vision. Helping people take ownership of a vision cannot be done in one 45-minute presentation. People need time to process the vision. 

·      The Pastor. The pastor is the key person. Nothing will be accomplished without the pastor’s full support.

·      The Leadership.  The leadership needs to work through the issues and ask all of the questions necessary before moving ahead. Only then can they confidently respond to questions from the congregation.

·      The Congregation. The congregation should receive the same information that the pastor and the leadership received. They are the ones that will have to give up exclusive use of facilities, worship styles, and leadership positions to reach all levels of assimilation within an immigrant group.

2.  SURVEY the Body.

·      Determine your acceptable losses. The leadership should determine the number of families or individuals they are willing to loose in order to implement an ethnic ministry. Whether you change your style of worship music, name, or drop Sunday school for small groups, there are always some who will leave the church.  It’s no different with starting an immigrant ministry.

·      Conduct an informal survey.  Following the Vision Casting to the congregation (I recommend a series of messages) divide the families of the church among the leadership and ask them what they think about the possibility of starting an ethnic ministry.  This casual survey will help you get some idea if you are within the range of acceptable losses.  If not, go back to casting the vision.  Consider some of the negative feedback received from the casual survey.  Address these concerns from a biblical perspective. Remember we are not asking for permission, we are preparing the hearts of our people for transition.

·      Conduct a formal survey.  Proceed with this step if the informal survey is positive. The purpose is to solicit the opinions, concerns and fears of the people so they can be addressed at an announced congregational meeting for this purpose. 

3.  SECURE a Covenant.

 A covenant outlines the commitments the church is wiling to make to launch an immigrant ministry.

·      Facility Use. The usage of rooms, days, and times for regular services and a process for requesting usage for special events and activities.  Rooms are no longer for the exclusive use of any one person or ministry.

·      Equipment Use.  The usage of audio/visual equipment for regular services and a process for requesting usage for special events and activities.

·      Chain of Command.

                   o     Ministry Leaders: Children’s, Youth, Audio-Video, Greeters, Ushers, etc… should provide training for counter parts in the immigrant church for continuity across language ministries regarding church policies, practices, and care of facilities and equipment.

                   o     The Immigrant Pastor and congregation must be aware of the church’s process and protocol for dealing with issues.

·      Finances. Since the immigrant ministry is part of the local church then all offerings go into the church treasury.  The church should create a line item(s) to cover the expenses of the immigrant ministry.  This should include, as soon as possible, the immigrant pastor’s compensation package.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours.

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Assimilation is Spiritually in the Best Interest of Our Immigrant Children.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

“Arturo”

It was Mr. Sanchez, a deacon of the Spanish congregation that rented the fellowship hall of our church for their services. I had just pulled into the church parking lot when he called out to me. 

As I gathered my Bible and Sunday school class notes from the passenger seat, he said to me in Spanish…

“Arturo, I’ve been meaning to ask you, why are you worshiping over there with the Anglos instead of here with your people?”

I was taken back by his question.  The only word’s that came to my mind as I got out of my car and started walking away were, “Because I like it.”

As I crossed the street from the parking lot to the worship building I felt anger swelling up inside of me.  I was upset that someone would use my ethnic heritage as a stick to manipulate me into changing churches. I also objected to the effort made to make me feel disloyal to my Latino roots because I was not worshipping in a Spanish-speaking congregation. And I especially did not appreciate the obvious attempt at proselytizing.

As I entered the worship center I was greeted by a number of other young bi-lingual Latino men like myself who preferred to worship in an English speaking service.

My experience is not uncommon for the 1.5 and 2.0 children of immigrants. When their English language skills increase while their ancestral language skills decrease, they will prefer to attend English-speaking services. 

I’m reminded of a story told by a Pastor of a Spanish speaking congregation who said that his own children and several other high school students from his congregation would sit in the last two pews of the auditorium during the praise time. But they would all get up and leave the service once he got up to preach to sit under the teaching ministry of the English speaking pastor.  The students commented that they preferred the livelier Spanish ministry praise time to the boring English praise time. But they better understood the teaching of the Word in English than in Spanish.

Christians at all levels of assimilation into a host country have the liberty in Christ to attend services in their language and cultural preference.  For the immigrant believer (1.0) to deny his children (1.5 and 2.0) and grandchildren (3.0) the freedom to attend a worship service in the language that best teaches and equips them in their walk with Christ, for the sake of preserving a cultural heritage can hinder their children’s spiritual growth. Believers need to hear the Word taught in their heart language and cultural context, which is not always the same as the language and culture of their ethnic heritage (Acts 2:5-11).

The reality is that you can’t fight assimilation. The immersion of immigrant youth into the educational system, culture and language of the host country will eventually draw 1.5’s and 2.0’s further away from the language and culture of their ethnic heritage.

In the days to come, I will be writing a series of blogs entitled, “Reaching the Nations Among Us,” to discuss how a local church can reach the immigrants in her community at all levels of assimilation. I would like to hear your stories of the issues you faced as a 1.5 or 2.0 descendent of immigrants.

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours. 

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The Ideal Model for An Ethnically Diverse Church

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Michael Wilson from Australia asked, “Is there one right or ideal church model? If so, what is the biblical and theological basis for this?  

 

         I have yet to meet a pastor of a multi-ethnic or a homogeneous church for that matter, who doesn’t feel that his approach to ministry is the right-if not best-approach. We can gather them all in one room and discover that they are for the most part basing their ministry on the same biblical principles and mandates.  What differs is the methodology, the manner in which they carry out the ministry of the church.  This personal guideline for ministry is called a Philosophy of Ministry. For instance, there are some pastors of English speaking congregations in the United States who see the need for providing homogeneous immigrant services in the language and cultural context of the ethnic group they desire to reach, while others refuse to provide such services insisting that immigrants must learn English and attend the English speaking services.

         The Bible clearly instructs the church what it is that she must do, but falls short of explicitly telling us how to do it.  The how is mostly based upon one’s philosophy of ministry.  For a guide on how to develop a biblical philosophy of ministry click here.  

         The ideal model, from my perspective, is a church that will, in the case of the United States, reach out to the English and non-English speaking members of her ethnically diverse community. I don’t see where the Great Commission restricts the proclamation of the Gospel only to those who speak our heart language. On the contrary in Acts 1:8 the church is to proclaim the Gospel across cultures.  Doesn’t this mandate hold true if those cultures come to our neighborhoods? That is why I believe that the local church in an ethnically diverse community is to minister to the native and foreign born 1.0, 1.5, and naturalized generations of ethnics in her community.  With that in mind lets consider a few models. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list. But for the sake of our discussion I will address four.

         The Renter/Rentee Model.  This church rents its facilities to an ethnic congregation. The Pros, it provides the host church with additional income, an opportunity to indirectly reach an ethnic community it is unable (or unwilling) to reach and it gives the immigrant church a facility in which to meet. The Cons are that the churches continue to be segregated and there is little opportunity for the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church to be reached by the renter church.

         The Mission Church Model. This church sponsors an ethnic mission church plant of its denomination. Providing its resources, usually facilities and utilities, until the mission church is self-sufficient.  The Pros, it provides the host church with a mission outreach opportunity and it provides the ethnic church plant with resources that lowers their initial expenses while working toward self-sufficiency. The Cons are that the churches are still segregated and there is little initiative for the sponsor church to reached the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church.

         The Multi-ethnic Church Model.  This is a church that intentionally transitions from the original homogeneous congregation to a multi-ethnic one that reflects the diversity of its community. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, and love one another. The Con is that the immigrant community is still unreached.

         The Hehogeneous Church Model.  Don’t bother to Google “hehogeneous” I coined the term. This church is heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) in the dominant language service and homogeneous (multi-cultural) in the various immigrant services conducted in their respective language and cultural context. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, love one another, and all levels of assimilation among ethnic groups are reachable. The Cons? I don’t see any but then again I am biased.

         The local church should strive to reach not only the diversity of ethnic groups within her community but all levels of assimilation among them as well.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.

 

For further reading on models for multi-ethnic churches and immigrant outreach see:

Eldin Villafañe, “Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry,” Eerdmanns, 1995

Manuel Ortiz, The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church,” Inter Varsity Press, 1993 and “One New People: Models for Developing A Multi-ethnic Church”, Inter Varsity Press, 1996