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Strategies to Improve Hispanic/Latino Church Leadership

Today, 17 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic and more than 2 million Hispanic/Latino students are enrolled in U.S. colleges. To serve the religious needs of the Hispanic population, the United States has more than 27,000 evangelical, Pentecostal or independent churches that are predominantly Latino/Hispanic in composition. Rather than attending seminary, the majority of the leaders of those congregations are equipped for ministry in Bible Institutes, which are less expensive, more geared to working students, don’t require a bachelor’s degree to enroll, and have opened in areas with high Hispanic/Latino population concentrations.

The quality of Bible Institutes varies widely: The average number of courses required to earn a diploma is 20, but some students complete just 4 courses before becoming missionaries or Christian educators within their denomination and only 65 percent of surveyed Institutes said that their library is adequate to address student needs. 

To help regularize the quality of education their Institutes offer, the Asociacion para Educacion Teologica Hispana (AETH), a member organization of Hispanic/Latino Bible Institutes located in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, has entered into discussions with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which is the accrediting agency for traditional North American Christian and Jewish seminaries and schools of theology. 

The two organizations are collaborating to establish certification standards that recognize the highest quality curricula and instruction at Hispanic/Latino Bible Institutes. As their work advances, Hispanics/Latinos trained in Bible Institutes will have expanded opportunities to pursue seminary degrees and serve congregations in denominations committed to the educational standards certified by ATS. 

The collaboration will also benefit more traditional schools of theology, according to Fernando A. Cascante, assistant executive director of AETH, in an interview published by ATS’s journal, In Trust Magazine. Given the growing number of Hispanics/Latinos resident in the United States, “seminaries that want to thrive in the future will pay attention to the growth of the Hispanic church and the training of Hispanic church leaders,”  Cascante said. Also see “The State of Hispanic Christianity in the U.S.,” for a discussion of faith trends among young (under 30) U.S. Hispanics and the report on a meeting by Hispanic clergy that set an agenda for strengthening ministry to the U.S. Hispanic population. You might also appreciate our list of “Best Resources for Demographic Research.” For more articles that address the challenges and opportunities permeating theological education in the contemporary era, explore the topics and issues addressed in past issues of In Trust Magazine, electronically archived on the In Trust Issues page. In Trust has also begun providing public access to other important resources initially produced for their members; see what is available on their “Engaging Resources“ and “Resource Guides“ pages, both of which are periodically updated.

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