A Quest for the Written Word
As the number of Hispanics in the U.S. increases, so must the understanding of how churches can cater to the different generations represented. Various age groups adapt to their surroundings in different ways, so multiple methods are needed to meet disparate cultural needs.
In the past 15 years, the number of Hispanic Assemblies of God adherents in the U.S. has increased by a whopping 71 percent. Dennis J. Rivera, the new director of the AG Office of Hispanic Relations, says this increase in the Hispanic constituency is due mostly to a rising immigrant population and the higher birthrate among Hispanics.
Efraim Espinoza, the recently retired director of the OHR during its first decade, says there are three distinct generational types to be considered when accommodating
the needs of Hispanics in the U.S. AG:
— Immigrants for whom Spanish is dominant in their culture and language.
— U.S. born and educated children of a generation born outside the U.S.
— Those who are more dependent on English than Spanish.
When any of these types are ignored, the reach to the Hispanic audience is limited. For example, if a pastor’s sermons are preached in Spanish only, for the most part, the younger generation will go elsewhere to have their needs met.
The same principle can be applied in publications. Rivera says one of his main goals is to continue Espinoza’s objective to reach Hispanics through the written word. Rivera says he hopes the OHR can supply more Spanish-language publications that are not only translated versions of English materials, but also are written originally from a Hispanic perspective.
“A lot of things are developed in English through the lens of an Anglo culture and translated into Spanish, but not adapted to the Hispanic culture,” Rivera says. “We in Hispanic Relations need to find resources that are speaking more to their needs in context.”
Printed publications reach beyond the 14 Spanish-language districts that are part of the U.S. AG. Rivera notes that more Hispanic churches are planted in some of the AG’s 47 geographic districts than in some of the designated Hispanic districts. Rivera, who will assume full-time national leadership next spring when he wraps up duties as superintendent of the Denver-based Hispanic Central District, says he wants to help Latinos connect better, regardless of where they worship.
“The bridging of languages, the bridging of cultures, and the bridging of generations is what the Office of Hispanic Relations is all about,” says Espinoza, who in June was elected assistant superintendent of the Midwest Latin American District . Rivera hopes to continue the legacy Espinoza established during the growth of the AG Hispanic constituency this century.
"Efraim was a spiritual statesman," Rivera says.
Overall, Hispanics represent 23 percent of the Fellowship's adherents, up from 16.3 percent 15 years ago. In 2001, a total of 428,747 Hispanics attended AG churches. The number rose to 733,809 last year.