The route taken by a Hispanic couple to an English-speaking church is not
much different from the route taken by an English-speaking couple.
Domingo and Dora Baln, for example, say, We visited after someone left a
packet of information about the church on our doorknob.
Luis and Marianna Bastida report, We came to church for a class and later
visited for Sunday School and worship.
Jess and Juana Garcia came to the church at the invitation of friends.
Do the routes sound familiar?
Yet none of these visits would have occurred if church members had not been
working and praying to make their church a place for Hispanics to feel
The road to the church
The Baln family came when specific information in the packet they found at
their door convinced them they would be welcomed because of their heritage.
They read that a dinner prior to a revival service would be held for the
Hispanic Sunday school class, and the service would be translated into
The Bastidas came to an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) class held at the
church. When they arrived they saw a sign announcing a Hispanic Bible study
class and translation of the worship services into Spanish, demonstrating this
church was where they could feel comfortable.
The Garcias came as guests of the first Hispanic family to join the church
and truly call it their home. The Garcias recognized that the church could
offer them a spiritual home as well.
The church paves the way
The packet of information, ESL class and sign were all the work of the Missions
Development Committee of Sunset Avenue Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, North
Carolina. In the 1980s the church found itself in a community with a growing
Hispanic population, especially migrant workers. With zero Hispanic churches in
the community and only one Baptist work in either surrounding county, the
church sensed Gods encouragement to find a way to minister to that special
group of people.
Connie Armstrong (center) reads along with her ESL students at
Sunset Avenue Baptist Church.
Connie Armstrong tried using her college degree in Spanish to reach out to
the communitys new neighbors. She looked for opportunities to invite them to
church, but with little success.
Finally a church member approached Connie and said, Ive been fixing leaky
faucets in some of the homes out at Kingswood. Many of the people speak Spanish
and little to no English. Maybe you could come out there and teach Sunday
school. The church and association already had a trailer home in which to
conduct Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and various other ministries in
Kingswood, a trailer home park, but all of the ministries were in English.
Connie was scared to death at the thought of teaching a class of Hispanics.
I could write and read Spanish, but my conversational Spanish was not the
greatest, she recalls. She prayed about it and decided that if the
Spanish-speaking residents would be patient with her, she would do her best.
And so Sunset Avenues Hispanic ministry began.
Nationalities represented in U.S. Hispanic population
All other Hispanic
Over the years, the ministry to Hispanics changed to meet new needs. Instead
of reaching a primarily migrant population, more and more Hispanics began to
call Rocky Mount their permanent home. Eventually, the church started a Sunday
school class for Hispanics as well as an ESL program. Connie now coordinates
the churchs ESL classes. Two nights a week, a teacher from the local community
college teaches English to the students. The church supports the efforts by
providing childcare, conversational English tutors and occasional
As the Hispanic ministry developed, the Missions Development Council
realized that the ministries were too isolated from the rest of the church
body, so they obtained headsets through which Connie could translate the
States/provinces with the highest percentage of Hispanic
All of U.S.A.
All of Canada
Sources: The Hispanic Population, Census 2000 Brief, U.S. Census
Bureau; and Population by ethnic origin, 1996 Census, Statistics
Although Sunset Avenue eventually would like to start a congregation for the
Hispanic community, this outreach utilizing translation has proven to be an
effective way to share Christ in the meantime.
RoadblocksNumerous cities report a growing Hispanic
population. One can only look around and see the increased number of Hispanic
restaurants to recognize the potential for ministry. The need is great, but
there are obstacles of language and lack of trust to overcome.
On mission Christians need to
be on the lookout for any roadblocks that may discourage Hispanics from coming
to their church.
Roadblock #1Leaving cultural sensitivity out of the
planning for Hispanics
The cultural norms of the Hispanic community need to be taken into
consideration when planning events. For example, one committee planned a dinner
for the Hispanic Sunday school class and was disappointed when only two men
came. They found out later that they had held the meal too early in the evening
compared to their cultures usual dinner hour.
Roadblock #2Negative assumptions about faith
Faith differences need to be handled delicately and with respect.
Its possible to recognize the common elements in the faith, such as Jesus
being the Son of God, born of a virgin, dying for our sins and being
resurrected by God, says Connie, who now serves as an advocate for the Hispanic
community in Rocky Mount. We can then build on those elements with
Roadblock #3Lack of widespread church involvement in
the Hispanic ministry
A strong group of lay believers must work together to further the Hispanic
ministry of the church. One person trying to do it alone, no matter how strong
his or her vision, increases the chance that the ministry will remain small and
isolated. The lay people can be an On Mission Team, Missions Development
Committee, Women on Mission or some other missions-minded group. Whatever the
group, its the support that matters greatly!
For information on outreach to Hispanics, contact Bob Sena, NAMBs Hispanic
church multiplication manager, 770-410-6227 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Herb Brisbane, NAMBs multicultural
evangelism manager, 770-410-6329 or email@example.com; or Kendale Moore, NAMBs
national missionary for literacy missions ministries, 770-879-6569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
His Heart, Our Hands: A Ministry Evangelism Toolkit provides
ministry action plans for beginning an ESL or tutoring program, as well as
ministries to international students, migrant families and many others.
Available at local LifeWay Christian Stores, www.lifewaystores.com, or
Roadblock #4Rushing the process of building
It takes both time and trust to develop a Hispanic ministry. Trust cannot be
rushed, and patience must be exercised. New immigrants to the city may wonder,
why do they want to help me?
A genuine love and concern must be demonstrated before Hispanics will
communicate to others, They are our friends.
Bridges to the Hispanic community
Establish a church presence in the Hispanic community by meeting a need common
to immigrants. Need-based ministries could include:
Assistance with immigration issues
Help with income tax forms
Training for employment
Once relationships are developed, a Bible study can be started. The local
Baptist association staff or state convention staff can provide operation
manuals on how to develop the Bible study class into a Hispanic church
As in any ministry, there are bumps along the road in beginning a Hispanic
outreach. Consider the bumps as moderating speed bumps and remember that the
ride is much more comfortable when you anticipate the bumps and navigate them
Sherra Still is a writer living in Rocky Mount, North
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC