New Hispanic generations to be conf. topic

Baptist Press
Posted: Dec 13, 2012 5:22 PM
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Although Southern Baptists have a long history of reaching and starting churches among Hispanics, changing demographics will require a new strategy, a North American Mission Board evangelism consultant has noted.

"The majority of the growth in the Hispanic population is coming from second and third generations," said Joshua Del Risco, evangelism coordinator for the mission board's God's Plan for Sharing nationwide outreach. "That presents a whole new set of challenges because if there's an area that we've struggled to reach as a convention, it's second and third generations."

Del Risco is among the organizers of the National Hispanic Evangelism & Mobilization Conference, Jan. 17-19 in San Antonio, that will focus on key challenges in outreach to Hispanics.

According to a Pew Research Center report in 2009, 9 of 10 Hispanic children had been born in the United States -- and that number was growing. Overall, U.S. Census stats show that Hispanics in the country grew by a rate four times faster than the U.S. population between 2000-2010.

Historically, Del Risco noted, Southern Baptists have started most churches among Hispanics born outside of the United States. The number of Hispanic SBC churches grew by more than 65 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Annual Church Profile statistics provide by LifeWay Christian Resources.

What makes reaching second and third generation Hispanics a challenge is both language and culture, said Del Risco, who came to the United States from Cuba at age 5. Many second and third generation Hispanics aren't fluent in Spanish, making the Gospel inaccessible in traditional Spanish-language churches.

From a cultural standpoint, many have grown up in a Hispanic home and with Hispanic culture but they identify much more than their parents with the broader American culture, Del Risco said.

"Many second and third generation Hispanics will attend Anglo congregations because of the language issue," Del Risco said. "But they don't find the cultural identity there that they're looking for. So they'll also visit off and on a Spanish-speaking congregation but never plug in."

Eloy Rodriquez, who recently planted his third Hispanic Southern Baptist congregation in Florida, underscored another major challenge -- the diversity of Hispanics. While many Anglos think of Hispanics as a single block, they come from many nationalities.

"We are so diverse," said Rodriquez, who was born in the United States but lived from ages 1 to 18 in the Dominican Republic. "Any location where you try to plant a Hispanic church, you've got to figure out what kind of Hispanics are there. It changes completely how you're going to reach them -- whether they come from Central America, the Caribbean or South America. They are different in their identities."

Each of Rodriquez's three church plants had a different makeup of nationalities. About half of the attendees at his current plant, a part of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., come from Columbia.

Del Risco said NAMB's upcoming National Hispanic Evangelism & Mobilization Conference will address these and other issues, noting that the conference will focus on helping first generation Hispanic churches understand and reach its members' children and grandchildren.

The Jan. 17-19 conference also will include, along with the main Spanish-language track, an English-language track. Del Risco said the English track is mainly for Hispanic church leaders trying to reach English-speaking Hispanics in either a multi-cultural or predominantly Hispanic setting.

Because the ministry contexts of those serving among first and second generations Hispanics are so different, Del Risco said the content for the conference will be different in the two tracks.

The conference will include such sessions as "Send North America Overview," "Growing an Evangelistic Church," "House Church Models for Church Planting" and "Churches Planting Churches Training."

"It's Kingdom focused," Del Risco said. "It's the only one of its kind with the diversity of people that'll attend. Our hope is that it helps Hispanic leaders reach Hispanics. But it's about more than just reaching Hispanics. We believe that Hispanics will be mobilized to reach others in North America -- regardless of ethnicity -- and people around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The conference will be held at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas.

For registration information, click here.

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ).

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