In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 each year, Fuller Seminary and several Latino faith-based organizations released a study – the first of its kind in 20 years – that details the faith, generosity, and innovation of Latino churches in America.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the history, cultural significance, and giving initiatives of Latino communities. It’s also an ideal time to celebrate the continued work done by Latino churches. Not only do they impact their communities by spreading the gospel, but also by addressing social needs.
We know Latino congregations are centers of worship. The report also details their essential role in the social safety net providing support and resources that help families thrive.
The social safety net is the network of churches, nonprofits, and other organizations dedicated to supporting those in need. Such support includes housing assistance, youth development programs, drug prevention programs, counseling, and other social services.
Additionally, Latino churches impact their communities by standing at the forefront of important social justice initiatives. These issues include immigration, education, healthcare, and mental health.
Other critical findings of the Latino Church Survey show the importance of the work fulfilled by Latino congregations. These include:
- 94% of all Latino churches and faith-based organizations offer important social services for their communities including short-term relief-based initiatives.
- The economic value of volunteer hours provided by Latino churches in 2020 is $2.3 million, an increase of 61% from 2019.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, Latino churches and faith-based organizations saw no decrease in their volunteer labor force. Instead, volunteer aid increased by 53%.
Latino churches as “faith responders”
The report, “How Latino Congregations are Transforming Communities,” was published by The Brown Church Institute, Fuller Seminary’s Centro Latino, and Urban Strategies.
The survey authors said few academic studies have sought to quantify the community-serving activities of Latino churches. And the most recent survey of its kind occurred in 2003.
According to the report, many Latino congregations have shared that they are most often the first Christian organization to respond with aid during crisis situations.
“Within Latino neighborhoods and other communities of color, churches play an especially important function because most community members turn to faith communities to cope with socio-economic hardship and poverty, and pastors serve as “first responders” in moments of crisis,” the survey notes.
Latino churches and other congregations of color served as important “first responders” during the COVID-19 crisis, providing social services related to housing, food distribution, pastoral counseling, COVID-19 public health activities, financial literacy, immigration, and others, the survey said.
Givelify often refers to pastors and faith leaders as “faith responders” in recognition of the huge responsibility they have in shepherding their communities through the pandemic.
Beyond the pandemic, pastors and faith leaders are on the front lines against depression, anxiety, fear, and faith crises. We should celebrate these faith responders as champions of their communities.
The indispensable role of Latino churches
The survey polled more than 120 Latino churches and organizations to help establish the effectiveness and trends of Latino philanthropic efforts.
Philanthropy is often synonymous with gifts or giving. Yet its true translation is simply the “love of humanity.” Yet, throughout history, the generous giving of large sums of money has too often defined philanthropy exclusively.
True to its definition, philanthropy is the giving of oneself to meet the needs of another. Generous giving isn’t just the domain of the wealthy. Philanthropy also includes churches that launch visionary community projects and the faith donors who support them.
The survey demonstrates that many Latino churches are active in the provision of social services and already represent a vital component of the social safety net.
At the same time, many Latino pastors cite the lack of adequate funding and resources as one of the most significant barriers to Latino churches impacting their communities through deeper social engagement.
How Latino churches are impacting communities
The study was accompanied by a webinar, “How Latino Churches Transform Communities,” hosted by Christianity Today. During the webinar, thought leaders shared the significant strides Latino churches are making to impact their communities.
Dr. Robert Chao Romero, director of the Brown Church Institute, highlighted: “We found that in 2020, during the height of COVID, virtually 100% of the churches and faith-based organizations surveyed engaged in community service activities related to public health and COVID, housing, food distributions, pastoral counseling, financial literacy, immigration, and so much more.
“About a 1/3 of churches surveyed allocated up to 20% of their total budgets for social service work. A significant number allocated more than 50%, and some even allocated up to 75% of their budgets.”
The Giving in Faith report presented similar findings from its survey of 524 faith leaders and 852 faith donors who shared their experiences on community, giving, and worship.
Celebrating Latino churches during Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month honors the influence of the Latino culture and its people’s investment in American communities. The countries that are celebrated during this time include Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
A great way to honor Hispanic Heritage Month individually or as an organization is by being involved and committed to creating more meaningful change. Imagine what could be accomplished if more generosity and attention were invested in the philanthropic efforts of Latino congregations.
Here are some tips:
- Listen: Actively listen to the communities you serve to understand their needs – not just during Hispanic Heritage Month.
- Connect: Get involved, individually or as an organization, in an area you’re passionate about.
- Commit: Small acts with ongoing commitment can create a meaningful impact
- Give: Generosity comes in all forms – from volunteering time to sharing your talents or your treasure.
Recommended for you: