“We call it one body, bringing everyone into the sanctuary together and keeping us together as much as we can,” Pastor Floyd McKee explained. “There is still some separate time, after the music worship, when those who do not speak any English can join Pastor Borunda for the Spanish sermon. On special occasions we use a transmitter system for simultaneous translation in combined services.”
The 69-year-old church has made the change to accommodate the needs of a changing community. According to the US Census, in a three mile radius of the church, 50 percent of the households are Hispanic; of the 110,000 people living area, 56,000 are Latino. This statistic reflects the larger national population trends in the United States.
Hispanic church missiologist Daniel Rodriguez reports in his book “A Future for the Latino Church” that more than half of the population growth in the United States is coming from the rising numbers of American-born Hispanics.
“Predictably, native-born Latinos are overwhelmingly English dominant,” Rodriguez said. “These demographic and linguistic changes are forcing Hispanic church leaders to reexamine ministry paradigms designed with foreign-born Spanish-speaking Latinos in mind.”
McKee said the real challenge of this ministry strategy is to be consistent and not quit. “We can’t give up on it, because in this community the (Rancho Village Elementary) school over here is 80 percent, and our high schools (U.S. Grant and Capitol Hill) are around 70 percent Hispanic. Most of those are second and third generation, so we can communicate with them, and it helps to communicate with their parents too (in Spanish). We want to make sure both are represented.”After several years of preaching to the children and youth of the church in Spanish, Rancho Village Hispanic Pastor Ever Borunda, who serves as Hispanic Ministries strategist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said he had a realization.
“Even though the kids were present in our Spanish services, they were not really engaging,” Borunda said. “I saw the need in my own family, with my wife being second generation Hispanic, and my children being third generation. I knew I had to make some changes for their sake. As important as our Hispanic heritage is to us, my wife and I are more interested in our kids understanding the Gospel in their native tongue than in them maintaining Latino culture.”
So far, the strategy seems to be well received by the Latino members of the church. Fausto Gonzales, Rancho Village administrative pastor, explained, “The Spanish speakers in our church are excited. I thought we would have a little bit more trouble because they were used to doing everything in their native tongue. They are excited to be part of one church, to be present and able to worship together as a family.”
Borunda continued, “I felt we had been unrealistic with expectations of our children in our church, knowing they function and interact in an English-speaking world all week, at school, with friends and even with entertainment, but then expecting them to come to church for a couple of hours and interact with us as if they were native Spanish speakers.”
“Our goal is not simply to offer English preaching for native-born Hispanics,” Borunda continued. “We understand the need to address not just the linguistic needs, but the cultural needs as well. We are doing more than simply ‘Americanizing’ Latinos; we want to become a multi-lingual, multi-cultural church.”
Rancho Village Worship and Youth Pastor Lucas Lunsford doesn’t speak Spanish but takes the time to learn all the songs the church sings in both languages.
“It has been really cool to see the congregations together in worship,” Lunsford said, “and I think it’s infused some energy into the church. This allows the families to come to church together and worship together. I think that might be a little bit of what we get in heaven, many nations and many tongues.”
Rancho Village is not only working to adapt their church to the changes in their community, they are also partnering with Oklahoma Baptists in sponsoring a two-day seminar, “A future for the Latino church: A conversation with Daniel Rodriguez.” The seminar will discuss the challenges and solutions when ministering to native-born Latinos in America. The meeting will be held at Rancho Village, Oct. 12 -13.
For more information about the conference visit www.facebook.com/BGCOMinisteriosHispanos.