Case Study: A Small Town Spanish Ministry

Pastor Randy Charlton pastors a church in Chatfield, Minnesota.  While Chatfield is a small town with few Hispanics within its population, pastor Charlton’s church has done a great job of reaching those who are there. Recently, David had the opportunity to talk with Pastor Charlton to discuss what the church has done to reach out.

David: Pastor, I think there are several churches in the United States that are in a similar situation as you are.  They are small churches in small communities that will never have a large and vibrant Spanish ministry yet they want to reach out and minister to those who are there. Even with so few Hispanics in your town, your church has been able to reach a couple of families.  How did you first come in contact with them?
Pastor Charlton: Through two areas in particular, one was through the van ministry.  We had an individual who went out knocking on doors trying to get kids in for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.  The second area was people in our church encountering Hispanics at work, befriending them, and inviting them to church.  They took an active interest in them.
David: Does anyone in your church speak Spanish?
Pastor Charlton: We have probably two or three that speak a few words, but nobody speaks fluently.  Some took it in high school and then a couple took a community education type course a year ago.
David: How have your families been able to minister to Hispanics without a good handle on the language?
Pastor Charlton: The main way is through the children’s ministry.  Although there have been contacts with adults, the kids are the ones that we are really seeing becoming part of the ministries of the church.  Those are the kids that are speaking English and Spanish both and so that gives us an outreach into the homes as well.
David: Tell me another example of how someone in your church has gone out of their comfort zone to try to reach Hispanics.
Pastor Charlton: I think just going out on visitation has probably been the biggest example in the sense that the cultures are different.  When we would stand at their door and talk as an American, the Hispanics are more willing to invite you in.  They will even offer you something to eat.
David: It sounds like the church members realize that the mission field is in their own hometown!  Has this been a key factor? 
Pastor Charlton: There are several people within the church that really have a desire and a burden to see people come to know Christ as their Savior.  Not just amongst the Hispanics but the whole town.  They are witnessing and ministering to people within the town – friends and  neighbors, Reaching Hispanics is part of reaching the whole town. 
David: What would you say has been the biggest blessing of this little Hispanic ministry that God has given you?
Pastor Charlton: The kids. Seeing the kids coming faithfully on a regular basis. They are coming to Sunday School, Awana, and coming to know Christ as their Savior. I think that is the greatest! 
David: What has been the biggest challenge?
Pastor Charlton: The language. That is the hardest thing for me. That is the hardest thing overall for the church, not being able to communicate with them. It is difficult knowing that even when they come, during Christmas programs and other special things, that they will hardly get anything out of the service.  No one can communicate with them, but they still come with their kids – that is encouraging.  I hope a little bit gets through.
David: I am sure it does. You never know what those kids are going home and telling their parents about what they learned from Sunday School and Awana.   Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, pastor.  I appreciate your church and the blessing it has been to my family and me.  Thank you for reaching out to Hispanics.
By David Whitcher (Hispanic Ministries with Baptist Church Planters)
Posted 10/17/07