GBGM, Hispanic/Latino Ministries expand focus
Community initiatives to be included in outreach efforts
Hispanic/Latino Ministries is expanding its focus to include community initiatives, said Carlos Ramirez, pastor of Putnam City UMC.
The Hispanic/Latino Ministry of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference met with a representative of the General Board of Global Ministries on Aug. 24-25 as part of a planned discussion about how best to reach Latino communities in Oklahoma.
The two-day summit was centered on visioning and strategic planning with a strong emphasis on how best to pursue multiethnic and multicultural ministries and address challenges leaders face in those ministries, as well as a renewed emphasis on leadership development and deployment.
Ramirez, a GBGM missionary, serves as a Hispanic/Latnio ministry coach and a consultant for the Oklahoma Conference.
“This type of ministry is harder than you think,” Ramirez said. “You cannot only be the priest. You’re also a grant writer, a cheerleader, an organizer, and more, all while being sensitive to other cultures. You can only mess up so much before you start to lose connection with people.”
During the summit, the representative from GBGM led guided discussions and exercises to assess the status of Latino ministry and representation in the Oklahoma Conference. They learned that less than one percent of all leadership in the conference – either clergy or lay – have a Hispanic/Latino background.
For this reason, leadership devleopment was placed as a high priority for Hispanic/Latino Ministries. In addition to leadership training that is already being offered, leadership development will include intercultural development, community advocacy and entrepreneurship.
One of the items considered during the summit was the OKUMC Strategic Plan presented at the 2008 Annual Conference. Its focus on allocating resources in a way that would welcome younger and more diverse disciples paralleled Hispanic Ministries’ goal of engaging in multiethnic and multicultural ministries.
To reach this goal, Hispanic/Latino Ministries will include community initiatives in its outreach efforts.
Leaders who plant community initiatives will need to demonstrate that their efforts are both replicable and sustainable. The “fruitfulness” of these initiatives may be demonstrated by data or by demonstrated outcomes.
“The difference now is that we can focus on more than just a new Bible study or worship service,” Ramirez said. “A person can have a passion to meet needs for education or for social issues and still engage in ministry. It can be in the church, or it can be outside the church.”
While the GBGM representative led guided discussions over the course of the summit, Ramirez said the expanded focus was not their directive.
“This is not what GBGM told us to do; this is the result of the work over the last several years,” said Ramirez. “This is a way to adapt to meet the needs of the communities we’re committed to serving. It’s a natural progression.”
Hispanic/Latino Ministries will meet with GBGM again on Sept. 14-15 to finalize strategy details. Ramirez believes conference support is vital for success.
“We need more than encouragement,” Ramirez said. “We need people to champion this ministry with their time and their resources. We can’t show up to meet a need too late and expect to see resurrection.”