What’s the difference between a bilingual church and a church with a bilingual ministry? Basically it comes down to integration. Many churches have a bilingual ministry that is one of many ministries that they do; a bilingual church has a bilingual ministry that is part of every ministry they do. Benevolence, missions, youth… every aspect of the church includes the minority culture members (Latinos, in the scenarios that I’ve been discussing).
When a church decides to become bilingual, they plan for the day when every ministry in their church will be bilingual. It’s easy to say, “Hispanics are less than 10% of this church; we’ll wait until we have more Hispanic members.” Problem is, it’s hard to get more Hispanic members when they’re being treated as a small subset within a larger whole. The church needs to think and plan as if the ethnic mix were 50-50. That doesn’t mean that all meetings have to be held in Spanish or that every committee must include a Hispanic. What it means is that every group, committee, ministry within the church has to be thinking about how it will operate when the church is fully bilingual. You can’t wait until you get there to lay the groundwork.
Too often congregations have the Hispanic group meet in the basement “until they get more members.” Or they wait to make announcements available in Spanish or print bulletins in Spanish “when the demand is greater.” As long as Latinos are made to feel a secondary group within the congregation, they will be a secondary group within the congregation.
It’s a lot like the old “act as if” technique I learned in school, where you act the way you want to be, not the way you are. To be happier, you act happier. To come to like someone more, you treat them as if you liked them. Etc. To become a bilingual congregation, churches need to act like bilingual congregations.