Racial Ethnic and Immigrant Church Growth Strategy

In 1996 The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) knew very little about welcoming Racial Ethnic communities into its midst. The church had experienced great success expanding itsmembership in the fifties as the country expanded into suburban neighborhoods and newly mintedcommunities, but in the nineties the country experienced a different kind of expansion as it welcomed a host of new immigrants to its shores. In this expansion the church was slower in itsresponse.

A year earlier in 1995 the General Assembly had asked two Presbyterian groups, one Hispanic and the other Native American, to develop strategies to help the church learn more effective ways of relating to their respective communities. It quickly became apparent that this was too limited an approach, that the possibilities for racial ethnic membership recruitment and growth should not beapproached in a piecemeal manner, so in 1996 the church set for itself some ambitious goals forracial ethnic membership growth. But merely setting goals wasn’t enough; clearly a plan of actionwas needed.

It was evident the denomination didn’t have much experience extending itself to people whodidn’t look like the majority of its membership—people who were different racially, ethnically and culturally—and so the General Assembly asked that a racial ethnic and new immigrant group church membership growth plan be developed. To its credit the church recognized it would be important for racial ethnic people to participate in this process, important that their perspectives be sought and valued. This multicultural approach allowed the Racial Ethnic and Immigrant Group Church Growth Strategy to become an innovative document, one that issued in a new era and impetus in Presbyterian church growth.

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