Bilingual church vs. bilingual ministry

futureWhat’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.

12 thoughts on “Bilingual church vs. bilingual ministry

  1. Scott

    Tim,

    Great observations. The congregation I grew up in was bilingual. Spoken English and American Sign Language. My dad was a deacon, then an elder and was the main “Minister (interpreter) to the Deaf.” they did have their own class on Sunday’s, but were and integral part of the congregation as a whole. They participated in every single way anyone would and their children (one of the couple’s sons specifically) was my best friend as we were children and teens. Although we live miles apart we have been a part of each others lives, weddings, funerals, etc.

    Scott

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  3. Frank Silva

    Right on the point! We are a bilingual church who went from Spanish only to fully bilingual worship over 3 years ago. This includes the bible studies, our bulletins and website. One of the reasons was to address our youth who understand English better and also for those interested in worshiping in a multilingual, multicultural atmosphere. There are many positives. Would like to have you visit us if you’re ever in the DFW area.

    Regards,
    Frank

  4. Tim Archer Post author

    Thanks Frank. I’ve met Mike Bustillos and know some about your congregation. Sounds like you have a great thing going!

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. Kenneth

    Tim,

    Spot on! Your thoughts on this point are so Biblical and echo the words Jesus Christ-which are found in so many places-and well as other “holy men of God as they were moved by the Spirit.” Unity can never be achieved through segregation. Thank you!

    Kenneth

  6. Daniel Olmos

    Blessings Tim,
    I currenttly live in Tijuana Baja California Mexico, It has been a blessing to run in to your web page.I got deported from the U.S.A to Mexico over two years ago,
    I am faithfully involved in my ministry Victory Outreach Tijuana Centro I have become a leader in our congregation God is doing great things in my life that there is no word to explain it, we have started a bilingual ministry where people who are in the situation as I was (deported no where to stay) could now have a place to live and worship God in there first language (English) even though I am Mexican it has been a challenge to adapt to my culture, but God is good, and now i realize and understand that all this was in Gods plan, I like to call it deported into Gods Wil l:) if you have any more tips that would be helpfull for us please send me an email. John 10:16. Best Regards

  7. Tim Archer Post author

    Daniel,
    Thanks for visiting the Kitchen. I hope we can share ideas over time as to how best to minister in two languages.
    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  8. Pastor Ariel Medina

    Blessings Tim:

    I am a Pastor of a fully bilingual church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Our church name is Iglesia Familiar de Adoracion – Family Worship Church. We have a very diverse church and since we started, our vision was to have a fully bilingual church where all ministries within the church were bilingual since the starting point. We have our Children’s Church, Youth Church, and main church all bilingual. Everything is translated simultaneously; the worship, preaching/teaching, lessons, marketing material, outreach, etc. and we have been well accepted by the diverse community. Your article is excellent and it was exactly what we had in mind before starting the church 8 months ago.

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