A Texas pastor advises church leaders that aim to reach Hispanic families, to embrace Latino's relationship-driven culture and be willing to hire a diverse, bilingual staff within the congregation.
Transitioning a monocultural church into a multicultural congregation has its challenges and in order to bring on Hispanics in particular, church leaders should prepare for a process that entails positive and negative changes, advises teaching pastor Jason Paredes of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.
"There are so many complications that you don't even anticipate…cataclysmic change is going to come, there's no way to get around it smoothly...feelings are going to be hurt, mistakes are going to be made. There has to be some boldness if you're going to walk into that," Paredes said, in a video interview with the Leadership Network.
Fielder, a megachurch that used to be primarily Caucasian, went from from having a 5 percent mix of ethnic minorities to 21 percent during the last five years. Even though they are now seeing their transition efforts come to fruition, Paredes admits it was difficult. During the time the church was considering the transition, leaders held meetings where Paredes learned that some were completely against the idea.
"…Some racially charged in the opposite direction saying some things that were downright offensive. In a moment of intense pain, the senior pastor looked at me and said, 'is it worth it?' and I said, 'I can't imagine any more reason that it would be more worth it. The bride of Jesus Christ is not healthy, He's going to return and see a sick bride and we cannot be okay with that,'" said Paredes.
However, he worked through the friction with the senior pastor even while some decided to leave the church entirely.
Paredes notes that church leaders also need to be willing to make radical changes, especially when hiring people who are bilingual that are mostly likely going to look and sound different.
He also emphasized that when Latinos and Caucasians merge together in church, both groups have much to learn from each other. Paredes says Caucasians should learn that Latino culture embraces and values relationships more, and in turn, Latinos should learn how to have a business mindset much like Caucasians do.
"You have to have a lot of open conversations…you can't do business, you have to do relationships and they have to be deep relationships based on who Jesus is and how we identify with each other," said Paredes. "Your (church) culture has to change, if it's been goal-oriented and business related, it has to become relationship oriented."
Prior to becoming multicultural, Fielder Church was focused on attendance numbers, says Paredes. Now, they are focused on reaching more diversity. However, there are other changes that they have had to adapt to as a result.
"Although it comes in waves, we've seen an amazing spike in attendance of people who are nonbelievers and irregular attenders," said Paredes. "They haven't learned what it means to be givers or attend regularly so you see the ramifications but if you're going to engage the lost and bring the unchurched, that will be there but we can train and mold them so the potential is off the charts and that gives significance to what we're doing."
Paredes' video interview with the Leadership Network is part of the organization's resource kit for churches who wish to engage Hispanic community members.
For more information, visit leadnet.org.