Yesterday we looked at two different approaches to starting a Spanish ministry in your church. Depending on your end-game, you need to plan accordingly (Cf. Lk. 14:28-30). For example, if you believe in complete separation, you’ll want to start a Spanish service at a different time than your English service so that Sunday School teachers can be trained independently. If you believe in complete integration, you’ll need to invest in the technology needed to get headphones for one language group, or think about how back and forth translation is going to flesh itself out in reality. If you believe in a balanced position as I have suggested, where both language groups are part of the same body, but ministered to in different rooms, here are a few practical steps to getting started:
Seek counsel: I’m often amazed at the foolishness of seminary students who desire to start a Spanish ministry and never seek counsel with those who have already done it (Pr. 11:14).
Baby steps: Start a weekly Bible study in a Hispanic area. Provide simultaneous translation via headphones during the English service. Start a Spanish Sunday School class. These things are great building blocks and work effectively to get a small group going, especially with those families where one member speaks English and the other does not. However, please don’t think: “we’ll do a Bible study until we get 15 people and then we’ll do headphones until we get to 35 people, and then we’ll…” Baby steps are good, but only if you plan to move on toward your end-game. Set a time frame and depend upon the Lord to work towards your goal. You may never reach 35 people with headphones, not because the Lord is closing the door, but simply because you are handicapping the ministry. Persevere in what you believe the Lord is calling you to do (Cf. Mt. 15:21-28).
Invest: In some senses you need to view this like planting a church. What would you think if you heard that a church was sending one family to a new town to plant a church, starting a ministry from scratch, but that the church planter was going to work a secular job to supplement his income because the sending church wasn’t going to pay him a full salary? In other words, the church planter would work Monday through Friday in a secular job, then Saturday evangelize and prepare his sermon for Sunday. Would you expect the church plant to flourish? Doubtful. Thus, if you are convinced that the Lord is leading you to start a Spanish ministry, budget to get behind it fully and help them as long as they need it.
Sheep need pastors: First, start discipling someone who is bilingual. Even if you get a hired gun to come in later, he’ll need the support, and it will be very helpful to have a plurality of men from the beginning. Some other ideas? Many Seminaries have bilingual graduates; so call up a good one, like TMS. Or, //begin shameless plug for my own ministry// look up a Spanish speaking training center, like El Instituto de Expositores. Not only will we have graduates soon, but we also offer training online for the Spanish speaker you are going to start discipling . If you know someone who might be interested, we offer a free online teaser course in Hermeneutics which begins twice a year (First week of September and March).
Look for an evangelist: Don’t call up a Seminary and hire a Spanish speaker who wants to study 30 hours a week to be a great preacher if you are starting a Spanish ministry. He’ll be preaching to himself! He’ll tell you that hardly anybody comes because Hispanics are just a hard people group to reach, when in reality, he just hasn’t gone out to get them. So in your interviews, look for church planter type giftedness.
Prepare a great preacher: In the early days of the Spanish Ministry, since much of the work will be evangelism, help your Spanish ministry pastor have time to evangelize while simultaneously leading him into being a great preacher someday. How can this be done? Give him your preaching schedule weeks in advance, so he can pray and meditate on the passages. Give him some direction early on in the week through an email, send him your manuscript on Friday and meet with him, answering any questions he has and doing a little homiletics with him. This way, he can prepare an awesome message in one or two days. Of course, Lord willing he won’t always be so dependent on you, but at first he needs to be evangelizing Monday through Friday, and he probably needs your preaching influence anyhow. Quite frankly, I love it when the English and Spanish sermons are exposited from the same text, because it unites everyone around the same truth.
Don’t make him do everything: Know when it’s time to hire help. Remember that long term, the greatest gift you can give to the Spanish speaking congregation is giving their pastor the time he needs to study the Word. If he always just translates your messages, and isn’t studying on his own, then the Word won’t be affecting his soul like yours, and you’ll have a ministry with little accountability led by a hypocrite. Also, if he does everything, everything necessarily implies the neglect of his own family (1 Tim. 3:5).
Programs are not evil: Evangelism is done by people not programs, but programs are not evil, especially when jump-starting a ministry. Sit down and determine how the demographics work amongst the Spanish-speakers of your area and get a list of phone numbers, do park evangelism, start a soccer ministry, make fliers for church members to hand out to their Spanish speaking employees, have a VBS targeting Hispanic children (You reach the kids you reach the parents), etc. All ideas are good if they contain the true gospel and invite people to hear more truth. Against popular opinion, some Spanish speaking countries have just as many nominal ‘Christians’ as Roman Catholics now a days. They are often-times hyper-Pentecostal (So watch out for the ‘Jesus only’ Pentecostals who deny the Trinity), but since you could be the first one lovingly inviting them to a ‘Christian’ church in their language, they might just settle .
Pray: Pray often, have your congregation pray often, mention Spanish ministry often, get everyone excited and praying. Only God can awaken dead hearts to His glorious gospel. Pray that He would give boldness to get out and find the elect that His gospel is power to save.