I am a 2nd generation Hispanic-American, born and raised in the United States. I am also the pastor of a 1st generation Hispanic, mostly immigrant congregation. You could say that I’m an anomaly by statistical standards since there is no lack of evidence suggesting that many young, 2nd generation young people are leaving the church. Yet, I’m one of a handful of Seventh-day Adventist young adults still actively in church, and even a pastor! If anyone deserves any credit for my journey, it’s only God and His mercy.
I felt the need to share my experience as a 2nd generation young person ministering in a 1st generation Hispanic community. However, I am sharing this anonymously because this could obviously create an issue within my church for being so forthright in my experience. Therefore, no identifying information will be given, but the cases are true and my experiences real. If I were to boil down my main thought that I’d like to share with the leaders of 1st generation Hispanic churches today, it would be the following:
It’s time to accept the fact that the church of today is not the same church that you grew up in. And if you insist on forcing your young people to conform to the way you saw “church” in your own country of origin, you will preserve your culture at the expense of your youth… therefore, choose wisely what you’re more willing to let go of.
I don’t say this lightly or to be sensationalistic, either; this conclusion is based on what I’ve seen and heard during my time as a pastor. To give you an idea of why I said what I did, in many of our board meetings this past year the biggest discussions revolved around:
• Whether the board should discipline a young person for playing drums at home.
• Whether the church should hold a baby shower at our church for an unwed mother.
• Whether to uphold a previous vote of the board to outlaw sugar at potlucks… yes, you read that right.
• Whether unbaptized members were allowed to perform special music during the service.
• Whether the youth and young adult class should be switched to Spanish so that they could talk the language of the church (even though most young people speak more English than Spanish).
• Whether the aforementioned unbaptized members should perform on the platform or from the floor because the pulpit is considered “holy.”
I could go on, but I won’t. Now, my church’s case may be more extreme than others, but this kind of nonsense isn’t foreign to me. Why? Because I grew up in Hispanic SDA churches, and these are the kind of experiences that I, along with many others of my generation, have had. Most have chosen not to deal with it, and have left the church. I’m sure that many of you may have also known of a church or church board who spent more time working as the “holiness patrol” and punishing people for not being perfect, instead of focusing the real purpose of a church board, namely: “evangelism in all of its phases.”
It’s a sad fact that it seems that, at least in my church, the majority of people are more interested in recreating their home churches from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean instead of recognizing that they live in a multi-cultural, multilingual, and multiethnic community. I’m not even going to get into the issues that they’ve had with me because I don’t look, talk, or preach like their
pastor back home. I don’t walk around with a suit and tie and with a Bible under my arm like their other pastors did (I preach from my tablet, but that’s apparently “not the same.”)
I’d like to ask a serious question to all of you readers out there. How can I, as a 2nd generation Hispanic pastor, reach or better understand a 1st generation Hispanic community? Because of the generation and cultural differences that I’ve faced (and because the Adventist church doesn’t have many 2nd generation churches), I’ve sometimes felt like only pastoring English churches from now on. However, I don’t want to give up on “mi gente,” especially since Hispanics are among the fastest growing demographics in our country.
So these are my thoughts. Please feel free to share any thoughts on what I’ve said. Is it just me, or is my situation not as uncommon as some would believe?
-Anonymous 2nd Generation Pastor