Reaching 2nd and 3rd Generation Hispanics

young Hispanics at the beach

Reaching 2nd and 3rd Generation Hispanics

Written By Dr. Bruno Molina

Reaching 2nd and 3rd Generation Hispanics

Officially, there are around 64 million Hispanics in the United States. Nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that there are an additional 8 million or so who are here “unofficial.” According to Pew Research, only 15% of Hispanics are evangelical. This means that, out of the 72 million Hispanics in the U.S., about 58 million do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In California, there are almost 16 million Hispanics (plus 2.6 million “unofficial” ones), which means there are about 15.8 million who do not know Christ. This is an alarming indication of a grave urgency given that most of them are 2nd and 3rd generation (and beyond). We must bear in mind that the task of reaching them is not an ethnic issue, per se, but a kingdom issue encompassing a particular key ethnicity. In California, most Hispanics are native-born, bilingual (though English-dominant), cross-cultural, and may appear to look white, Indian, African, Asian, and a host of combinations. The Hispanic population, then, represents a potential, large cross-cultural missionary force, but only if they are reached for Christ and discipled to disciple (2 Tim. 2:2). Understanding this, we should consider the following regarding reaching the 2nd and 3rd generation.

To begin with, prayer is still the most important aspect of effective evangelism. So, let’s ask the Lord of the harvest for laborers (Mat. 9:37-38), and let’s ask for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). Secondly, let’s trust that the Gospel is still the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16) and not our marketing strategies, gimmicks, or methods. Among Hispanics, the most effective evangelistic practices are oriented around the family and extended family (e.g., Home-based Groups, VBS, Social Recreation Programs, Marriage Enrichment, etc.).

2nd and 3rd-generation Hispanics practice selective assimilation and are trans-cultural: they retain their Hispanic distinctives while selectively transcending those distinctives to engage successfully within the broader cultural environment. So, to reach them, non-Hispanic congregations need to become Hispanic culture-friendly while getting to know them on an individual basis and not assuming that they fit into a neat box of commonly held assumptions.

According to Pew Research, about half of the U.S. Hispanic population is under 18! Given that the best time to reach people for Christ is when they’re young, churches should emphasize children’s outreach strategies like Vacation Bible School, after-school tutoring programs, compassion ministries, back-to-school giveaways, and evangelistic sports programs. Since young Hispanics spend over 4 hours a day on their electronic devices, you’re going to have to communicate with them on their terms via text, X, Instagram, etc. It also means that their worldview is going to be more influenced by TikTok than the Bible. Consequently, they may not be as familiar as previous generations with essential Bible stories like the story of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, or others. Consequently, you may have to explain why they should believe in the reality of God, sin, and so forth, even prior to sharing the Gospel with them.

Among 2nd and 3rd-generation Hispanics in their 20s and 30s, many suffer from a quarter-life crisis during which they lack a sense of foundation, purpose, and community.[i] This represents an opportunity for churches to organize community social events and retreats focused on their needs, during which young Hispanics can find their significance, security, and satisfaction in Christ.

Churches tend to focus on reaching the poor, uneducated Hispanics (the down-and-out without Christ) who are typically first-generation. It’s easy to coordinate a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, food pantry, or clothing giveaway and count on people showing up. Nevertheless, the 2nd and 3rd generation, educated, and financially secure Hispanics (the “up-and-out” without Christ) are just as lost. There needs to be a significantly expanded effort to connect with 2nd and 3rd-generation Hispanic business, education, and government leaders through organizations like the local chamber of commerce, the board of education, community service organizations like the Lions Club, and local government entities. For example, your church could host a meal at a nice hotel where the speaker addresses a topic of interest to them, and someone shares a brief testimony about how Christ has impacted their life.

The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few, and the need for the Gospel among 2nd and 3rd-generation Hispanics is urgent! Nevertheless, from God’s point of view, these challenges are nothing more than opportunities disguised as problems. God has given believers the authority, the ability, and the resources to be his faithful ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and make disciples of all the nations (Mat. 28:19-20). We must respond to these opportunities as Joshua responded to God’s call in his day by saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD! (Joshua 24:15).”


[i] LinkedIn. 2017. Encountering a Quarter-life Crisis? You’re Not Alone… https://www.linkedin.com/blog/member/career/encountering-a-quarter-life-crisis-you-are-not-alone accessed on 1/23/2024

About the Author

Dr. Bruno Molina
Executive Director, National Hispanic Baptist Network

Dr. Bruno Molina is married to Clara Molina and is Executive Director of the National Hispanic Baptist Network, the Language & Interfaith Evangelism Associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and an Adjunct Professor of Theology, Evangelism, Ethical Theory, and Apologetics at Southwestern and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminaries as well as Louisiana Baptist University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from New York University, and both his Master of Arts in Theology and Ph.D. in World Christian Studies from SWBTS.

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