It’s time to reach out to immigrants

boleroIf I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that some type of immigration reform is coming soon, particularly regarding Latinos. I may be wrong; the political extremists have torpedoed many a thing that seemed like a done deal. But with so many reports signaling the Hispanic vote as what doomed the GOP this past election, the political will to get something done seems to be there.

Again, let me encourage churches to get ahead of the curve. Those churches that reached out to immigrants during Reagan’s amnesty program are the ones that today are making important inroads into the Latino community. Lay aside your political feelings and think about the ministry possibilities. This could well be the critical time.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Offer ESL classes. Contrary to what some seem to think, most immigrants are very interested in learning English. There are programs available to help Christians reach out in this way. A couple that come to mind are FriendSpeak and World English Institute.
  • Offer immigration counseling. This can be tricky, as undocumented immigrants can be hesitant about identifying themselves as such. Still, many churches have had success with such programs.
  • Teach your members the ins and outs of dealing with immigrants. You can find some good resources at g92.org. There is also a seven-session discussion course built around the book Welcoming The Stranger. I also know that World Relief offers training for churches.
  • Consider sponsoring someone in your church to be certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Board recognition allows non-profit organizations to offer immigrant legal services without being immigration attorneys. Again, World Relief offers 40-hour, week long intensive introduction to immigration law; I’m sure other groups offer similar programs.

As I said, this could be a crucial time in the history of the church in the United States. The Hispanic population is only going to grow. The church can either grow or diminish accordingly.

3 thoughts on “It’s time to reach out to immigrants

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  2. Tim,
    I attend a small congregation (40) in a small rural town (4000) that has a growing Hispanic population. The local Catholic church and a Baptist church both have Spanish services. Some folks in our congregation would like to reach out to the Latino community but we don’t know where to start. We know there has to be those in the community who need resources that we could provide, but we don’t know about the needs. If we had an ESL class I’m not sure how those who would want to attend would find out about the class. But I’m of the opinion that before we try to get them into our building, they need to know we love them. I would think the best way to start friendships with those we are trying to reach would be through workplace relationships or through school related activities, but none of the those who are interested in reaching out have kids or have jobs where they interact with Latinos. So I guess my question boils down to how can we start building relationships with those in the Latino community?

  3. Josh,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that first you have to develop relationships with Latinos. Too many churches want to skip that step.

    As far as how, I think you have to be intentional about it. Some thoughts:

    • Be aware of the Latinos around you. It’s a bit like when I started dating a girl in high school that drove a Chevy Impala. Suddenly I was seeing Impalas everywhere, where I hadn’t paid attention to them before.
    • Be intentional about speaking with the Latinos around you. Introduce yourself to the girl at Dollar General. Make sure you learn your waitress’ name. Go to high school athletic events and speak with the parents in the stands.
    • Once you have a minimal relationship with some Latinos, ask them if there’s anything you could be praying about. This question rarely comes across offensive, and many people are grateful for the interest.
    • Tactfully broach the subject of ministry with some of the Latinos you’ve gotten to know. Something like, “If our church were to do something for the Latino community here in Smallville, what would be the best thing we could do?”

    Those are some initial thoughts.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

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