In a time of social distancing, many people feel isolated and crave interaction. Many churches strive to maintain togetherness despite being apart. The need for unity within a community goes far beyond any public health concern. It is in our nature to crave relationships, to desire acceptance, and to yearn to be a part of something greater than ourselves. In areas with an ethnically diverse population, this can be a greater challenge to achieve. Beyond our duty for evangelism and service, the purpose of communal worship is just that, to worship as a community, the whole community.
So, what are the steps that can be taken to ensure solidarity in diversity?
#1 – Simultaneous Interpretation
More and more churches find their congregations are becoming international – first-generation immigrants looking for a church home, Americans wanting to invite their non-English speaking relatives, and multicultural families wanting to worship together. When so much of our engagement with the sermon is through our personal, emotional, and spiritual responses, listening in our second or third language, can create a disconnect.
Today, with companies like Interactio providing simultaneous interpretation through an app, there is no reason not to welcome other languages and embrace diversity. It can easily be used to stream real-time interpretation to attendees’ phones, tablets, or computers. Pairing this software with onsite or online sermons, many churches are finding they can expand their reach to an audience that is often excluded. Interpreters and listeners can be onsite or remote, so even during a quarantine, anyone can hear the message.
The news that our church would have to close its doors for a period of time was devastating. We were suddenly hit with tons of questions like “How can we continue to reach our community and maintain fellowship without actually being together?” Through Interactio, we were able to continue offering translation so that our Spanish-speaking community was able to continue to participate in the worship. This community is already often isolated and discriminated against. We wanted to be very clear that they were just as much valued members of OUR church body as anyone else. This spoke volumes to many of our Latino members.” – Steve
#2 – International Ministry Team
Once a church decides to offer interpretation services, a common hesitation is what to do with the new members that they attract. It is important for those attending to feel not only welcomed but that they belong. One way to achieve this is by having an international ministry team. Depending on the size of your church, this could be anything from one person to a whole department. Here, the size of the group is not important; what truly matters is having someone to reach this part of the community. They should take ownership, build relationships, and relate to this minority group of the church. Ideally, they would speak the same language and share some sort of cultural background.
In my church’s surrounding areas, there are a lot of immigrants. Many are undocumented. They often face fear leaving their own neighborhoods or going places outside of their social circles. We felt a great call to reach these members of our community and our Spanish ministry team took it upon themselves. It is hard getting them to attend church for the first time, so we started offering interpretation online. We were able to safely reach these people and many have started coming to church.” – Alysa
#3 – Community Involvement
A new ministry is often started by the vision of one person. Someone has to notice the need and initiate help. Starting a new ministry, and building a team, can take a lot of work. For the effort that one puts into such a task, it can be devastating to see few results. But when an outreach effort is implemented, and soon abandoned due to lack of commitment or little success, it can be frustrating, as well as create a culture of inconsistency and instability in the church.
So how to get the best results from a new ministry? Get the whole congregation involved. Whether or not every member is serving in this team, they should know it exists. When offering interpretation as a ministry, all members, regardless of their demographic, should know it is offered, be aware that a system like Interactio is in place, how to access the interpretation, or, at least, where they could direct visitors to get assistance. Making announcements, posting on the church website, and sharing on social media are also great ways to get the word out. Getting the whole congregation involved creates a culture of unity, awareness, and openness.
We came to realize that the world has become more individualistic … The most significant attitude we’re taking to face that [individualism] is encouraging all our volunteers to make a call to the people who eventually join our weekly services. We end up bonding with them and finding out what their fears and problems are, enabling us to pray and help them.” – Samuel
The Church’s commission is to reach people to the ends of the earth; so when people come to us, it is our responsibility to welcome, engage, and serve. Interactio‘s slogan is “building bridges to limitless knowledge.” With the help of Interactio‘s service, your church can help build bridges to eternal life.