The makeup of the Hispanic and Latino community today is very different from the images of it carried in the minds of United Methodist laity and clergy. Too often, an uninformed understanding of this community leads to inaction by local churches, their members and their leaders. The four graphics below should give you enough information to reflect upon the current state and future vision of United Methodist ministry with this rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic and Latino population.
While the number of U.S. foreign-born Hispanics and Latinos has flattened out over the past 10 years, due in part to increased U.S. border enforcement and removal processes, the number of U.S. born Hispanics continues to rise sharply. Those born and raised here are automatically U.S. citizens, their first language is English and they are cultural products of the U.S. educational system. They are also part of the standard U.S. workforce. They are bicultural Americans.
These are the percentages of Hispanic and Latino adults in the language categories. 44% (16 million) speak mostly or only English. 56% of the adults (20.3 million) speak only or mostly Spanish. Over the next 2 years, 2.7 million English-speaking Hispanic teenagers will become adults. Five years later another 4.8 million will become adults. Given that the U.S. is now experiencing a net loss of Hispanic and Latino foreign born, within 7 years there should be over 4 million more English-speaking U.S. Hispanic and Latino adults than Spanish-speaking ones. We are turning a big corner on language.
17% of people in the U.S. are Hispanic or Latino. One-tenth of one percent (0.1%) are Hispanic or Latino United Methodists. And yet, language and citizenship are no longer overriding factors in most cases, and many United Methodist churches in the U.S. now find themselves in neighborhoods that are now or are becoming multicultural.
This graph shows the 7 categories of people appointed to serve United Methodist churches, including the Hispanic ones. Most of our current pastors are Spanish speakers, because boards of ordained ministry and seminaries are not recruiting new Hispanic candidates in numbers commensurate with the U.S. demographic reality described above.
An invitation to reflect further
How are so many businesses able to effectively recruit bilingual and English-speaking Hispanic workers? What can the church and its clergy community learn from them?
With 2 out of every 3 Hispanic and Latino people in the U.S. being U.S. citizens, what will local churches need to overcome in order to reach out and include them?
What will it take to get to a point where 25 to 30% of United Methodist laity are Hispanic and Latino?
Hispanic Nativity Shift: Pew Research
Language Usage: Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Hispanics within the UMC: GBHEM
Clergy Demographics: GBHEM