Most Hispanic Protestant pastors are involving the next generation in church ministry and are strategic about how they reach them.
By Aaron Earls
Read the Spanish-language version here.
As many American churches struggle to reach kids and students or retain young adults, a third (35%) of the average U.S. Hispanic Protestant church is under 30, including 18% under 18. Pastors at those congregations credit prayer, priorities, and programs for their ability to reach and keep the next generation.
“Hispanic churches in the U.S. tend to be comprised of members of different nationalities and cultures,” said Giancarlo Montemayor, director of global publishing for Lifeway Recursos. “Despite sharing a common language, those nationalities and cultures have unique challenges and needs. If you add to the equation that kids of the church members will likely prefer English as their main language, you end up with a complex, messy, but beautiful ministry.”
When asked specifically to choose up to five of the most important reasons their church has been able to reach youth and young adults, most pastors say their congregation prayed specifically for them (57%) and communicated the importance of reaching them (56%). Close to half (46%) say they put special events on the calendar.
Around 2 in 5 say they took time to meet one-on-one with individuals (41%), enlisted someone who spoke English well enough to teach those ages (39%), and older members demonstrated younger members are a priority (38%). Around 1 in 3 specifically prepared sermons with them in mind (34%) and set aside budget and resources to reach them (33%). Only 1 in 5 say they intentionally prioritized reaching youth and young adults over other age groups.
“Hispanic churches are proactive in reaching out to adults in their own language and cultural expressions, but they also have activities to offer in English to reach the second and third generations,” Montemayor said. “This is one of the reasons Hispanic churches have been successful and intentional when it comes to ministry outreach.”“Hispanic churches are proactive in reaching out to adults in their own language, but they also have activities to offer in English to reach the second and third generations.” — Giancarlo Montemayor, @LifewayRecursos Click To Tweet
Once a young person has connected with the church, pastors say relationships and being involved are keys to keeping them. Factors that more than 9 in 10 pastors of U.S. Hispanic Protestant churches say are extremely or very important to helping youth and young adults stay involved in the church and grow spiritually are for those members of the next generation to attend worship services regularly (94%), be received with acceptance and not judgment (93%), and develop friendships with Christian peers at church (92%).
More than 4 in 5 point to the importance of that age group having parents who love the Lord (89%), participating regularly in fellowships (89%), joining a small group Bible study or Sunday School class (83%), developing friendships with caring adults at church (81%), and receiving tangible help from members during a personal crisis (81%). Two in three (65%) say one-on-one time with the pastor to answer questions, while around half (49%) believe it’s important to conduct activities in English.
Most pastors at Hispanic Protestant churches say they’re involving the next generation in the ministry of their church and are strategic about how they reach them. Nine in 10 (90%) involve young adults in teaching, serving, and leading areas of ministry. A similar percentage (88%) do the same with youth. More than 3 in 4 (77%) intentionally conduct youth and young adult outreach, while 73% say their youth regularly invite friends to church activities. Additionally, 63% of pastors say they have strategies to reach youth and young adults.
“Almost 9 in 10 Hispanic congregations are providing some activity to reach kids, and almost 8 in 10 have activities to reach students,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Hispanic churches are not just young, they are actively and intentionally working to reach the next generation with the gospel.”
While no single activity for kids or students happened in a majority of U.S. Hispanic churches, most congregations say they did something to reach those age groups last year. They were more likely to do an outreach event for kids than students.
Among activities for children, Vacation Bible School (VBS, 48%) was the most popular, followed by children’s church or children’s worship services (47%), hosting a community party (44%), and having a social or fellowship gathering (42%). Fewer churches did family nights (25%), dramas or musical programs (21%), recreational activities like sporting events or amusement parks (21%), children’s camp (19%), outdoor trip like camping or fishing (16%), some type of kids’ club (14%), or a sports tournament (8%). Around 1 in 10 (11%) say they didn’t do any of those last year.“Hispanic churches are not just young, they are actively and intentionally working to reach the next generation with the gospel.” — @smcconn Click To Tweet
When asked which of those children’s activities has been most effective at fostering meaningful spiritual growth, VBS (26%) topped the list of a quarter of churches. Around 1 in 5 (19%) pointed to children’s church. No other kids’ event was deemed the most effective by more than 1 in 10 pastors at Hispanic Protestant congregations.
The most popular activities conducted by churches to reach students last year include a social or fellowship gathering (41%), a local or regional event with other churches (37%), youth praise and worship nights (32%), hosting a community party (28%), taking youth to a Christian camp run by someone else (27%), recreational activity trip (27%), game nights at the church (23%), youth retreats (22%), and youth camp run by the church (21%). Fewer pastors say their church did sports tournaments (13%), dramas or musical programs (12%), or youth mission trips (9%). More than 1 in 5 (21%) say they didn’t do any of those activities in the past year to reach students.
Pastors identify the activities most effective at fostering meaningful spiritual growth among their students as youth praise and worship night (16%), youth camp run by the church (12%), taking youth to a Christian camp run by someone else (10%), local or regional event with other churches (10%), and social or fellowship gatherings (10%).
In addition to the many activities churches do to reach kids and students, most Hispanic congregations encourage the spiritual growth of children with weekly Sunday School classes or small groups (52%). A little less than half (45%) have weekly Sunday School classes or small groups for students.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.
For more information, view the complete quantitative, qualitative, and significant differences reports of the U.S. Hispanic Protestant church study. View the Spanish-language release and access Spanish-language resources.