SBTC en Español: Hispanic Ministries adopting more unified structure

July 23rd, 2018 / By: JC Davies / comments

SBTC en Español: Hispanic Ministries adopting more unified structure

Hispanics from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention gather each year prior to the annual meeting for a night of worship in Spanish.

GRAPEVINE—As the Hispanic population in Texas grows, the SBTC is changing to better meet the needs of its members through a more unified approach to Hispanic ministry. 

Historically, many of the convention’s conferences and training opportunities for Spanish-speaking pastors and church members have been independent of their English-language counterparts. But that dynamic will soon change, as the Hispanic Ministries department transitions in 2019 to a new format as “SBTC en Español.”

With the new model, Spanish language events, including the men’s and women’s conferences, regional conferences, the Equip Conference, the pastors and wives retreat, and the Hispanic Summit, will merge with the convention’s English events, with an “en Español,”—or Spanish language—track available. 

“I welcome the change because it’s going to unify us,” said Mike Gonzales, director of Hispanic Ministries. “It’s going to make us one family, and we will be able to work together as one body.” 

As the transition takes place, former Hispanic Ministries initiatives will be incorporated into various SBTC departments so that leadership from both English and Spanish language ministries are working alongside each other to offer more diverse opportunities. 

“It will help us have more communication among our departments, and we’ll be able to better minister to our different Hispanic churches with their different needs,” Gonzales said. “Next year, when Hispanic individuals in these ministries see our makeup, the way we are going to be reshaped, they are going to say, ‘Hey, we can connect with the convention now.’” 

Because Hispanic communities differ throughout the state, Gonzales said the en Español initiative will be tailored, particularly for the regional conferences, to the local demographics, with a range of language options available. 

“It just depends on the situation. If you go down by the border, everything will continue to be done in Spanish. If you go to Lubbock or Odessa, we might have an English track because lots of Hispanics there are bilingual.”

In addition to increasing convention-wide unity and opening up more opportunities for Hispanic members, the shift is aimed at reaching and serving a changing Hispanic community, one in which second and third generations are becoming the majority.

“As young (Hispanic) people in the church continue to grow, they do prefer English. In order for the Hispanic church to retain young people, a lot of them are having to start providing at least bilingual services or have an English service. For us as a convention, that’s vital, I think,” said Hispanic Ministries associate Jesse Contreras. 

By combining all of the convention’s conferences and events, Contreras hopes to see future Hispanic leaders better equipped to serve and lead others.

“In the past, the conferences were a bit limited because they were all in Spanish. Now, they can bring their young people and college-aged students, and they can take part in the whole conference,” he said. “I’m hoping that we can connect with some future leaders—Hispanic men and women who are able to handle both languages, both cultures—and to continue their leadership development because there’s a need for solid, theologically astute students who can help our churches for the coming generations.” 

While the en Español model will be new at the convention level, it’s one Gonzales said many larger SBTC congregations have already begun adopting and one he predicts will become more prevalent with time. 

“Most of our bigger Anglo churches are moving toward the en Español model, and the reason is because it becomes one church, not two churches,” Gonzales said. “That’s the reality. That’s going to be the future of the Southern Baptist church, ministering to all the people in all cities in their different languages and in their different backgrounds.”