From my personal experience, working the last 15 years in youth ministry and the Hispanic church, I discovered several treasures we can take advantage of, if we embrace and involve Hispanic parents in our church dynamics.
In the Latino culture the role of the parents is already immersed in our practice of youth ministry. We usually work with parents and through them to influence their children.
Family is one of the most important social institutions in the Latin world. Most of our activities are accomplished in family. The only difference nowadays, is that the constitution of the family is changing over time.
In our culture, family occupies a very important place. If you ask any young Hispanic what he values the most, he will most surely answer that it is his family. If you ask any parent which is the goal of his effort, hard work and dedication, he will probably tell you that it is to take care of his family.
Let me share a couple of statistics to provide a little context. We are facing the largest generation of young Hispanics in US history. The Hispanic population in the US is currently 55 million; 30 million under 25 years old and it is projected to reach 132 million by 2050. That means that by then, 1 in 3 people will be Hispanic.
Hispanics are the largest and the youngest minority group in the US. 1 in 5 school children is Hispanic. 1 in 4 newborns is Hispanic. Never before in the history of this country it has been a minority ethnic group made up of so many young people. Only by these numbers, we can deduce that these young Latinos will become adults who help to shape the American society of the 21st century (Pew Hispanic Research)
To work efficiently with Hispanic parents presents a great challenge, but also a great opportunity for the church in this nation.
Let me share with you some of the characteristics that define the parents of Spanish-speaking families:
– Hispanic parents are great examples of tenacity and effort.
– Their children admire the sacrifice and hard work they do to raise them.
– As a rule, they are willing to receive tools to help them interpret the actual culture in which their children live.
-At home, parents talk to their children in Spanish, which is such a valuable tool for kids when they grow up and are able to speak two languages.
– They’re teachable and aware of their constant need to learn.
– They are friendly and hospitable. They love to open the doors of their home to share and socialize with other people from different cultural backgrounds.
-The Hispanic families have a long tradition of being united, and this trait moves with them outside their home countries, wherever they go.
– Human values and high moral standards are two of their main concerns. In fact, they usually assign a strong emphasis on obedience and respect for adult authority.
– They also build strong family ties, believe in loyalty to the family and have a collective orientation that supports the development of the family in the community.
Hispanic parents are a great mission field in the courtyard of our communities.
As good missionaries, youth leaders must become specialists in context. Today, more than ever before, we need missionaries with a mentality of cultural anthropologists and with a passion for relationships.
Get closer to those Hispanic parents who are already in your church. Take the time to learn about their culture, language, customs, practices, food, clothing, music, needs, relational dynamics, family systems and much more.
The church community presents a wonderful opportunity for us to approach and to get involved in the lives of Hispanic parents and families.
Without blood family nearby, the church community becomes critical as an adopted family for the Latinos, in a way most white evangelicals rarely experience. Members of these churches spend multiple evenings a week together. They throw birthday parties at church. They laugh together; they weep together. In other words, they look a lot like that early group of disciples in the Book of Acts:
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (2:46-47).
Dear pastors and youth leaders, Hispanic parents are the direct bridge that allows us to exercise the wonderful influence of the gospel with the millions of young Hispanics who live in our beautiful country. I dare you to try!