Hispanic Generational Transitions in the Church
DATE POSTED: 02/28/2019  |     |   Category: Shoulder to Shoulder

As we look toward impacting the Hispanic community in Denton County, I found it interesting to go over data shared recently by Dr. Daniel Sanchez, Distinguished Professor of Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the SBTC Empowered Conference for Hispanics.

Quoting largely from data provided by Pew Research Center, Dr. Sanchez noted a sharp rise in the Hispanic population in the nation. From 1950 to 2010, Hispanics grew from 4 million to 49 million. By the year 2050 the Hispanic population is projected to reach 128 million. In Texas, this data projects that Hispanics will become the majority population group by 2027.

The challenges this growth presents touch six different areas for our Hispanic population: generational, linguistic, communication, assimilation, religion, and life style.

While immigration is a hot topic of conversation these days, it turns out that 2 of every 3 Hispanics in the country were born here. This is leading to a rapid generational shift among Hispanics. By 2020, second generation Hispanics will comprise a narrow majority among Hispanics, with both first and third generation Hispanics close behind.  This means that first generation Hispanics, who now make up a majority among adults in our Hispanic churches in the DBA, will only make up one third of the total Hispanic population in the next couple of years.

Of all of the racial/ethnic groups in the USA, Hispanics are the youngest, the average age being 28. Linguistically, second generation Hispanics are evenly divided in speaking both Spanish and English. Third-generation Hispanics prefer English over Spanish 3 to 1.

What does this mean for their church experience? First generation Hispanics prefer a Hispanic cultural service in Spanish. Second generation Hispanics prefer a bi-cultural service in either language, with a stronger emphasis on their Hispanic roots. Third generation Hispanics will mimic their parents, but with more emphasis on English as their language and an Anglo culture. By the time Hispanics reach the fourth generation, they will tend to blend into both Anglo culture and English for communication.

One disturbing fact concerning Hispanics ages 18 to 29, however, is that 31% of them do not identify with any religious expression. They identify closely with their Millennial Anglo counterparts. I am grateful to Stephanie Gates for her presentation at last month’s DBA Executive Board on reaching both the Millennial and Generation Z growing population. (If you missed her presentation, I would highly encourage you to browse for information on this topic at her website
http://www.stephaniemgates.com.)

Dr. Sanchez ended his presentation by listing several areas of concern. One is the possibility that we may not reach second and third generation Hispanics if we continue using strategies that work in reaching their parents. Another is that while an appreciation of ethnic cultural values is good in and of itself, cultural idolatry is anti-Biblical. He also stated that we need to avoid thinking either one of the following: that only Hispanics can reach other Hispanics, or that Hispanics cannot reach other population segments.

For these last two points, Dr. Sanchez referred those in attendance to the example of the church at Antioch: 1) It was a church of refugees, 2) It reached Jews, 3) It reached Gentiles, 4) It was a multi-cultural church, 5) It sent an offering to their first generation founding brothers, 6) It sent out missionaries, and 7) It sent a delegation to work out differences with their first generation founding brothers.

This information is a lot to think about as we move toward our DBA goal of planting 150 churches in the next twelve years. We will definitely want to understand this information in order to be effective as we plant churches that embrace first, second, and third generation Hispanics in Denton County!

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