Lessons in Leadership: Hispanic Ministry Apprenticeships Underway

Date Posted: 10/8/2015

More than a dozen Hispanic pastors are being equipped to help the conference reach the growing Hispanic population inside and outside of the church setting.
Shadowing Rev. Caesar Martinez at Bear Creek UMC, has been a rewarding experience for Cuba-native Franklin Rodriguez as he helps lead worship, participates in street and school evangelism and connects with the Hispanic community in a variety of ways. Franklin is one of 13 leaders receiving hands-on training in the apprenticeship program recently launched by the TAC Center for Missional Excellence. “This is a great opportunity for me to learn in a group setting during our training sessions and learn in a focused ministry setting -- all while improving my English,” shares Franklin.
Responding to the Growing Need
According to Center Director Rev. Diane McGehee, “Persons of Hispanic background are quickly becoming the majority population within the geographic boundaries of the Texas Annual Conference and yet this demographic is grossly underrepresented in our churches.” Notes Diane, “We have hundreds of churches that need help reaching out to their Hispanic communities yet we do not have a pool of pastors from which to pull for appointments. The gifted participants in our new pilot program, who are currently serving as licensed local pastors or in lay ministry, are being equipped to enter the candidacy process for potential placement in existing churches and new church starts, and to assist us with reaching the growing Hispanic population within the TAC.” While in the program, they will work alongside an appointed pastor to help develop proficiencies, such as preaching in English, so that all involved can discern their gifts and graces for Hispanic ministry. “If the pilot program works as well as we expect, we can expand it beyond the Houston area,” adds Diane.
The apprenticeship class, proposed and created by the TAC Hispanic Ministries Task Force, was launched in September with a fellowship event at Clear Lake UMC. The one-year apprenticeship is designed to educate the candidates in United Methodist doctrine, history and connection, and includes Saturday trainings focusing on worship leadership, preaching, sacraments, reading and writing assignments, ESL classes as well as participation in a pastoral roundtable group.
Apprentice Cassandra Arroyo is paired with Rev. Benjamin Villanueva, El Buen Pastor UMC, a church recently entering the Texas Conference from the Rio Texas Conference.  Notes Cassie, “I am enjoying the required reading as I am learning very interesting history about John Wesley that I did not know, which is preparing me to know more about the Methodist faith.” Adds Cassie, “I am also very thankful for the opportunity to meet other participants who share my passion for Hispanic ministry as these are my first friendships in pastoral leadership.”
Mentoring pastor Rev. Cesar Martinez has several learners under his tutorship. “Gustavo Echemendia, for example,” he shares, “has been here with me at Foundry UMC for several years but this program has encouraged us to set specific goals to work on over the next nine months, and revisit them along the way. We will intentionally put him in situations outside of his comfort zone as he learns to lead ministry in an Anglo/Hispanic congregation.”
The pilot group includes:
Mentoring Pastors
Rev. Luis Ramirez, Cypress Trails UMC
Rev. Arturo Cadar, Crossroads UMC
Rev. Cesar Martinez, Foundry UMC
Rev. Alberto Williams, Clear Lake UMC
Rev. Benjamin Villanueva, El Buen Pastor
Evis Serrano, Covenant Glen UMC   
Enrique Sanchez, Cypress Trails UMC
Cassandra Arroyo, El Buen Pastor UMC
Raymundo Arguello, Reid Casa de Alabanza UMC
Franklin Rodriguez, Bear Creek UMC
Gustavo Echemendia, Casa de Dios Foundry UMC,
Daniel Hernandez, CrossRoads UMC
Dayimi Pimentel, CrossRoads UMC
Frank Acosta Cannet, Casa de Dios UMC
Elizabeth Gallardo Monterrubio, Casa de Dios UMC
Cesar Nunez, El Buen Pastor UMC
Raul Arauco, El Buen Pastor UMC
Sonia Shearro, Clear Lake UMC
Adds Cesar, “I feel like this pilot program is a really great opportunity for people to get a preview of this type of ministry before they jump into candidacy. It is a challenge to stay on top of the candidacy process, even more so when you are not a native English speaker, so our hope is that this program will be a great preview to discern their calling and avoid pitfalls.”