Questions to Consider Before Launching a Spanish Ministry

By Jorge Fraige

The Hispanic population in the United States is growing. As a result, the demographics of communities are changing. If a church is going to be effective in making disciples, then it is vital that the congregation reflects the surrounding communities. Many churches have launched Spanish-speaking ministries in order to serve the increasing Latino population. If this is something you are contemplating, let me say that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Wherever you are in the process, I encourage you to consider these three key questions.

Do you know your Hispanic community?

As you prayerfully consider beginning a Spanish-speaking ministry, I encourage your church leadership to take time studying the Hispanic culture in your area. It is wise to begin by investing time going to these communities and getting to know people.

The Hispanic culture is rich with the traditions  of various Spanish-speaking countries. This means that their approach to family, holidays, recreational activities and so on are all different. At Prestonwood en Español, 19 countries are represented among our members.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are often cultural differences within generations in immediate families. Many times, Hispanics who are born in the United States (the children in an immediate family) are more comfortable with English than Spanish, and they probably prefer American culture over the culture of their parents.

One of the ways to get to know the Hispanic community is by  planning a block party on a Saturday in the surrounding neighborhoods. Use this as an opportunity to hear people’s stories, to find out where they’re from, and to learn about their favorite holiday traditions. There might be something you can incorporate during the holidays to honor their culture and traditions.

Do you have a plan?

The answer to this question will determine whether you’re ready to launch a Spanish ministry. Success in ministry requires sacrifice, time and resources. Take time to determine whether your church has the resources to start a Spanish ministry that will flourish—resources such as worship and education space, budget and staff support.

As you continue to study your community, you will soon be able to tailor a strategy to reach your immediate demographic. For instance, if you’re in a large city, you probably have people driving long distances. Evening groups or events at the church might be difficult for them to attend during the week. You could instead establish home groups around the city that are closer to where they live so that they can connect with one another outside of Sunday mornings.

Do you have the right person?

A common mistake made by ministry leaders is assuming that knowing the language is sufficient. That’s not the case. A different language also means a different culture. Hiring someone who is merely bilingual is not enough. To lead this ministry, you need someone who has a background and experience in a Spanish-speaking culture. This person will more easily connect with the community and will be better able to navigate the diversity of cultural nuances.

This leader also needs to be highly motivated with a clear vision. Successful ministries (not just Spanish-speaking ones) have leaders who don’t limit themselves to the way things have always been done. The right person will continually seek new ways to reach people with the Gospel, have substantial goals, and try what others aren’t willing to yet. The vision needs to be clear and concise, and supported by the English-speaking church. It is imperative that it aligns with the church’s overall mission, philosophy, and values. Both congregations must understand that they are one church. In order for this to happen, there needs to be constant communication and a mutually agreed upon plan between the Spanish-speaking pastor and the senior pastor concerning the direction of the ministry. Also, it is important that everyone on staff and in the congregation is on board. This must be an “all in” effort! Unity is essential if you want this ministry to flourish.

Consider these three questions, pray fervently, and discuss your ideas for a Spanish-speaking ministry with those you trust. Remember to be humble and patient as you embark on this process of learning about another culture and building a new ministry. Don’t forget to enjoy the process as well!

Jorge Fraige is Pastor of Adult Education for Prestonwood en Español.