Connecting Churches for Shared Ministry
Connections between American and immigrant churches maximize their Kingdom impact through multiple shared ministries. Merely sharing a facility creates “religious roommates” but not necessarily meaningful spiritual impact.
Sharing mutual ministries is the 4th of our 7 keys to cultivating healthy relationships between American and immigrant churches. These kinds of mutual ministries are most likely to develop when both congregations have lived out the first 3 keys: identifying a shared spiritual passion, designating point persons who will maintain regular contact, and composing a written agreement regarding use of the facility. You can read about all 7 keys in this blog.
The most critical need for many immigrant churches is children’s and youth ministries. Most first-generation immigrants need worship in their mother tongue. Their children who attend American schools may not speak their parents’ language well, and even if they do English will still be their emotional mother tongue. Those immigrant churches who provide only mother-tongue worship will experience the departure of nearly all their young adults. Their teenagers may be physically present but not actively engaged.
Small immigrant churches may not be able to provide English-language teaching. With only small numbers of children, a class may not have a critical mass of students. If the host church opens up its children’s and youth ministries to its guest congregation, quality Christian education can be made available to its children. Joint youth events provide critical mass, creating opportunities for young people to develop positive social relationships.
Community service is another frequently shared ministry. All churches desire to be salt and light in their communities. American churches may care about their less-wealthy neighbors, but discover they have little in common with their congregants. As a result, deeds of charitable service are unlikely to result in new disciples who become part of their congregation. Often immigrant church members live among the poor and have direct personal relationships with them. When community service is performed by both churches together, there is a greater likelihood that new disciples will be made who form long-term attachments to the one of the congregations.
Evangelism is a natural outcome of such generosity. Programmatic evangelistic events are effectively done by churches serving in unity. Festivals and fairs are more fun with ethnic foods, dress and music. Volunteers from both churches will experience both fun and ministry as they serve together.
There are many other ministries that churches have shared together, such as leading worship, prayer events, camping and more.
We’re not suggesting that two churches merge into one or have weekly joint bilingual worship. Multiethnic churches have an important role to play in the Kingdom, but so do homogenous churches who serve in unity with homogenous churches of other ethnicities. Each of your churches has distinctive styles of preaching, worship and fellowship that will attract newcomers who will not be attracted to the other church. You are two separate churches with your own personalities, leadership teams and budgets, but who share facilities, relationships and ministries.
The individual pieces of a quilt may all have solid colors, yet the quilt as a whole reflects a radiant diversity of colors. As the global ministry leaders of the Lausanne Movement advocate, both multiethnic and homogenous churches can glorify God, but none of them can do so alone. To experience the full riches of the unity of the Body of Christ, every local congregation needs some level of shared ministry with a sister congregation. May your church be blessed to form such a Connection.