Research: 5 Ways Hispanic Congregations Are Leading the Way in Outreach

One of the most comprehensive studies of the Hispanic American Protestant church was conducted this past fall. Lifeway Research partnered with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse to conduct a study with more than 25 denominations and networks, inviting pastors of Hispanic congregations to complete a survey about their ministry. The study yielded several key outreach takeaways that should be helpful to all churches in North America

1. The Gospel Is Spreading. 

As a researcher in the U.S. in the early 21st century, many of the numbers I share are not positive. There is often more statistical bad news for the church than there is good news. So, when we see positive signs of God at work, it is especially exciting to share these stories.

When Protestant Hispanic congregations were asked how many new commitments to Jesus Christ as Savior were made through their congregation in the last year, 91% of the congregations had salvation stories to tell. Keep in mind that the median-size Hispanic congregation in this study is 70 worship attendees.

Yet 47% of Hispanic congregations saw 10 or more individuals follow Christ for the first time in the last year, almost 50% higher than the most recent snapshot of all Protestant churches in the U.S., which shows one-third have 10 or more new commitments to Christ.

God deserves all the credit for his movement among Hispanic Americans. Yet it is also helpful to see how he has been working through Hispanic believers.

2. Evangelism Is the Mission.

The apostle Paul asks, “How can they believe without hearing about him?” (Rom. 10:14 CSB). These Hispanic churches would not be seeing such a significant number of people trust in Jesus Christ without telling others about him. Most Hispanic pastors specifically encourage their church members to invite others to church (86%). These invitations multiply the preaching of the gospel to touch the people church members know.

Hispanic congregations are also quick to use social media as a means for outreach about church activities (74%). Technology is not the answer to every issue U.S. churches have with evangelism, but it is a tool to point people to ways they can connect with the body of Christ.

The majority of Hispanic congregations are actively engaged in their community for the purpose of sharing the gospel. This includes serving the practical needs of people, conducting special events to meet people and proclaim the gospel, and church members personally sharing the gospel in conversations.

“The Hispanic culture embraces community with open arms, which perhaps is one of the main reasons why evangelism has grown among Hispanic churches in the U.S.,” says Giancarlo Montemayor, director of global publishing for Lifeway Recursos. “Open-air preaching, [and] inviting strangers and seekers into your home is common among Hispanic families. In this sense, the Hispanic church in America is a good model of how the New Testament churches practiced evangelism as part of their daily lives.”

When Jesus Christ gave his followers the Great Commission, he expected us to engage in this work. Almost eight in 10 pastors of Hispanic congregations say they regularly schedule opportunities for their congregation to go out into the community to share the gospel.

3. Work With the Willing.

As we look at the work of evangelism among Hispanic congregations, we see an intentional effort to involve the entire congregation in inviting and having gospel conversations. But when it comes to outreach events and activities, the reality is not everyone participates.

It can be easy for church leaders to get discouraged when the turnout for outreach efforts is small, but faithful churches work with the people who are willing to engage in the work of making disciples.

For the typical Hispanic congregation, only 1 in 5 attendees (median) participates in planned outreach activities. Yet Hispanic churches are seeing above average numbers of people come to Jesus Christ. They are not neglecting the mission. The work of evangelism is proceeding with those willing to be involved. 

4. Pray for the Lost.

The story of evangelism among Hispanic congregations would be far from complete without highlighting a key part of their ministry. “The recent Hispanic American church study report is very encouraging as it relates to prayer,” says Dennis Rivera, director of Hispanic and ethnic relations for the Assemblies of God. “This report revealed that praying together weekly is a high priority and practice. It also revealed the top strategy and reason Hispanic churches are reaching youth is prayer.”

As pastors describe the most important factors that influenced their ability to reach the next generation for Christ, the largest percentage point to specifically praying for youth and young adults (57%).

Two-thirds of Hispanic congregations have a weekly prayer meeting in addition to weekly worship services. This weekly focus on prayer is second only to small group Bible studies or Sunday School classes for adults (74%) in terms of the number of churches engaging in an activity to encourage spiritual growth.

Evangelism is an effort that the Bible speaks of both as an individual effort and a group effort. Paul said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). Several times Jesus pointed to the importance of the cooperative effort of a local congregation in sharing the gospel. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

As Hispanic pastors describe how community is built in their churches, praying together is a vital part of it. In fact, out of 10 factors to practice a strong sense of community within a church, 83% of pastors in Hispanic congregations say praying together is “extremely important.”

5. Support New Works.

While it is one of the smaller numbers in the study, the percentage of Hispanic congregations that financially support new church starts sets a strong example. Despite Hispanic Protestant churches being new congregations on average themselves (32% were founded in 2010 or later), 12% financially contributed to a church start last year.

These are not the easiest financial times for churches. Yet financially supporting the next generation of churches shows the priority of the Great Commission within a congregation.

The impact of the commitment of churches, networks and denominations to new church starts is evident in the stories of Hispanic congregations themselves. Fifty-four percent of Hispanic congregations have been started since the year 2000.

May the entire church in North America be encouraged by God’s activity among Hispanic congregations, may our faith in God’s activity in our generation be renewed, and may we be faithful in following their example of obediently proclaiming the gospel.

Scott McConnell
Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is executive director of Lifeway Research.