Hispanic Ministries See Growth, Seek Partnerships

3/4/2011

Over the past several years, Hispanic ministries in the Texas Annual Conference have reported seeing significant spiritual and congregational growth. Because of this, the Texas Conference Committee on Hispanic Ministries is working on rebuilding itself to equip churches for growth in 2011 and beyond.

 

In February, the committee met to define their Kingdom concept and to begin developing a focused, yet comprehensive, vision and mission relevant to their mission field as well as their current ministry goals.

 

Rev. Arturo Cadar, Associate Pastor at Friendswood UMC and chair of the committee, said they are using the Church Unique method – Will Mancini’s methodology, to identify a good vision and mission for moving forward. He said they want their efforts in the Hispanic mission field to be focused on spiritual growth in established congregations, and in those communities where reaching out to Hispanics has not been a top priority.

 

Part of the committee’s work involves discerning which churches need help becoming a stronger presence in their local Hispanic communities. To do that, he said they need to find, identify, approach and partner with existing churches in order to enhance their potential for success. “We are looking at churches where demographics indicate we should be ministering to Hispanics in some capacity… where we can maybe start a small group Bible study or a prayer group or even start planting a church.”

 

Cadar added that they also want to increase the impact of social justice programs for Hispanics in the conference.

 

“We don’t want to simply be reactive and put out fires or do things that don’t make sense just to say we’ve done something with Hispanics or put a checkmark on some list,” Cadar said. “We want to invest, and protect our investments, in the right places, at the right time, with the right people to better support our growth strategy.”  

 

Social justice programs, such as ESL classes, academic tutoring and food pantries, have been a fair starting point, he noted. “What we often lack is putting the spiritual piece of the ministry in place. We want to offer the people who benefit from our programs a place to worship and grow spiritually through prayer and Bible study. We want a measurable difference in the lives of Hispanics in the communities we serve.”

 

Continued Growth

Over the last two years, Cadar’s Spanish language service at Friendswood UMC has grown from 40 to more than 100 worshiping on Sundays. He said they have about 125 in attendance when everyone shows up and First UMC Conroe’s Spanish language service now regularly has 90-100 in worship. They’ve also seen growth at Mission Milby and Fairhaven UMC in the Spring Branch area. 

 

“We strongly believe that the growth that we have experienced with these congregations has been driven by a set of common denominators,” Cadar continued. “One characteristic is strong support from mother churches. Another is that pastors of these churches are committed leaders that get involved with their local communities and spend the necessary time to reach out and develop laity to be better servants. [They] also have supportive and faithful lay leaders that assist pastors in evangelizing the community, conducting spirit-filled worship services, and in discipling their respective congregations.”

 

Cadar identified 10 active Hispanic congregations in the TAC. “These are groups of people that faithfully meet to worship, study, and pray together. They are committed members of Methodist congregations, not groups of people taking ESL classes, or groups from other denominations using space in a Methodist church.”

 

Moving Forward

The committee sees the success in these churches as encouraging, but also deserving of renewed support and further investment in Hispanic ministries from the Texas Conference.

 

“We need to become a high priority in the mission field of our conference,” Cadar continued. “Diane McGehee [Texas Conference Director of Missional Excellence] is putting a lot of effort into Hispanic ministries. That means developing relationships and working together with other TAC ministries. We all have to work together to reach out to Hispanics. Harris County is the second largest Hispanic county in the nation and sits in the middle of our conference. We need to pay more attention to the needs and opportunities that this segment of our mission field is offering to the mission of the church in the Texas Conference.”

 

The committee has identified at least 16 churches with the potential to start Hispanic ministries and they believe there are an additional 25-30 churches that could be ministering to their local Hispanic communities, and currently, are not.

 

Challenges Ahead

The committee recognizes that there are obstacles to overcome, including cultural challenges and funding concerns.

 

“The biggest challenge is that we don’t have enough clergy or even lay ministers to go around. There are not enough individuals in the seminary or local pastor licensing school pipeline that can speak Spanish and understand the culture. Hispanic worship teams are a challenge too. These are things we’re going to have to tackle if we’re going to be successful in being the church to Hispanics,” Cadar said.

 

The committee is working on developing a plan for effectively training and recruiting pastors who are passionate about Hispanic ministries. Seven representatives (three clergy, one clergy candidate, and three laity) will be attending Module 1 training for Hispanic ministries at Perkins in March. The committee is also working with Perkins to be able to send more qualified candidates to local pastor licensing school in Spanish. Cadar, Dr. Don Waddleton, and Rev. McGehee also met with leaders from the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry in February to better understand how to collaborate with and support one another.

 

“Many churches want to get involved in Hispanic ministries, but not everyone is able, or willing, to invest in it. If we’re going to be successful, we’ll have to proactively and strategically invest our time and our money in the Hispanic mission field,” Cadar emphasized. “If we are serious about Hispanic ministries, we have to invest in Hispanic ministries.”

 

To learn more about Hispanic ministries in the Texas Annual Conference, their work and how you can get involved, contact Rev. Arturo Cadar at arturo@friendswoodumc.com or Rev. Diane McGehee at dmcgehee@txcumc.org.

 

Rev. Diane McGehee and Rev. Arturo Cadar contributed to this article.