Multiplication Center

The Rise of English-Friendly Hispanic Churches

January 9, 2013



An important shift is happening among churches ministering to Hispanic Americans: more and more are becoming English dominant, according to a recent major article published by Huffington Post. 

“They have become very English-oriented in some ways, but they didn't lose their Spanish side,” the article quotes one researcher as observing, as the article highlights several churches including Chicago's New Life Covenant Church, a Spanish-speaking Pentecostal congregation that had 125 members a dozen years ago when its name was Templo Cristiano Palestina. Today it draws over 5,000 people weekly among English and Spanish services. In reaching out to English-speaking Hispanics, it started offering programs such as school tutoring, and branched out to more established suburbs where native-born Hispanics could be found.”

Of 6 services on Sundays, 4 are in English. But the Spanish-language congregation now numbers only 500 of the total attendance exceeding 5,000.

Another profiled church is Miami’s Iglesia de Cristo en Sunset (Sunset Church of Christ). It is being transformed into a successful multilingual church, where kids can speak and worship in English, parents can speak and worship in Spanish, and the Pastor hopes, “each can grow in Christ and get along.”

Growth Edge in English

The article points out that in previous decades, when the growth in the Hispanic population came primarily from immigration, many of the nation's biggest Spanish-speaking congregations blossomed. More recently, the growth of Hispanics in the last decade has been led by second-generation and third-generation Hispanics. The latest national census showed that native-born Hispanics, who tend to prefer English, now account for nearly two-thirds of today’s U.S. Hispanics. Read More Here. 

There’s even a term to describe this shift, according to the article: “Among linguists, it's sometimes called the three-generation hypothesis. The first generation speaks the language of their country and by far prefers that. The second generation is often bilingual but prefers English. And the third-generation usually speaks only English,” said Tom Boswell, a professor at the University of Miami who studies migration patterns. “And that's where some of these struggles come in. Some families think that Spanish church will ensure that their kids and grandkids grow up in their language and culture, but that may not always work.”

That same three-generation pattern applies in places such as South Florida, where Hispanics are in the majority, said Andrew Lynch, a bilingualism expert and Spanish professor at the University of Miami. But the trend may be harder to notice because “the cross-generational shift to English is largely masked by the constant influx of first-generation,” Lynch said.


Factoids to Consider
According to the article:

– 16% of U.S. Christians are part of churches that offer services in either only Spanish or both Spanish and English (National Congregations Study)

– Of the 13% of the U.S. population that speaks Spanish, about 55% say they speak English “very well” (American Community Survey, an annual count by the U.S. Census) 


Important Gathering for Hispanic Pastors

Leadership Network is convening a one-day event on October 9, 2013, titled “Large Church Hispanic Pastor's Roundtable.” The focus will be on senior pastors with primary ministry in English, typically to second and third generation Hispanics and Latinos. The location will be New Life Covenant Church, mentioned at the beginning of this blog. For details, click here.

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