So how would a non-Hispanic church move toward becoming bilingual? Some would argue that the first step is to hire someone from Latin America, set aside an unused room in the building and let them go to work. I’m not convinced.
The first step, I think, is for the congregation to make a conscious decision that they are willing to do what it takes to mix different languages and cultures. Some congregations, to be honest, aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. I think that many, however, are willing to do some things now to prepare for the future.
Next, the members need to become more aware of their Hispanic neighbors. Meet them, look for opportunities to form relationships, become aware of the make up of the Hispanic community where they live. Are they mainly immigrants? Is there a large concentration from a certain country? (We used to be able to assume they were mainly Mexicans here in Texas; that’s not always true today) Are you dealing with a Hispanic community mainly composed of long-term residents or have most of them moved to your area recently?
These questions help the congregation know if the outreach will be done primarily in English or in Spanish, if the community needs ESL classes and GED classes and citizenship courses, etc. It will also help, when it comes time to find someone to lead the outreach, determine the profile of the person you need. Bringing a preacher from Nicaragua may not be the best choice for a community made up of long-time U.S. residents. A Spaniard may not be the best for reaching a Puerto Rican community. Those sorts of things need to be considered.
Next week I’ll talk some about some of the decisions I think a congregation needs to make when moving toward being a multi-language, multi-culture body. For now, I’d like to hear some of your thoughts.