I’m preparing a class for the Harding Lectures on “Reaching My Hispanic Neighbor Next Door.” It was an assigned topic, but one I’m happy to address.
I’ve written about this topic a number of times; sometimes I’ve gotten feedback on why outreach to Hispanics should be different from other types of outreach. Here are some random thoughts:
- Language plays a big part. But not in the way that a lot of people think. According to Pew Hispanic, 69% of Hispanics are proficient in English.* The use of Spanish is more about identity than functionality. Still, it matters.
- Culture also has a huge role. It’s hard for me to speak to other immigrant groups, for I haven’t spent much time around them. But the large number of Latinos in the U.S. makes it easy for them to live in virtual isolation from the mainstream community. (And while we tend to lump Latinos into one basket, they don’t see themselves that way. Salvadorans recognize a commonality with Mexicans, yet also recognize great differences. They identify themselves as being from a certain country, just as most of us would do when living overseas. In Argentina, I knew people from Canada and Great Britain, and I knew that would were all English-speaking expatriates, but I didn’t view as as a single group.)
- There is a major difference between Latinos who have grown up in the States (and are typically part of the mainstream culture) and those who have come as immigrants. We have to be sensitive to differences between the groups. Just because someone is of Hispanic heritage, they don’t necessarily listen to tejano music or want to worship in Spanish.
- Our churches have to be intentional about making inroads into immigrant communities; that’s not something that happens naturally.
- With heritage Hispanics, we need to recognize the strong family and culture ties that may hinder their coming to “an Anglo church.”
Random thoughts for a Tuesday morning. What would you disagree with? What would you add?