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How to make more Hispanic disciples


6:00 P.M. ET Oct. 4, 2011

“We are the National Plan” is featured in the September-October 2011 issue of el Intérprete magazine. A UMNS photo illustration by Hugo Martínez-Saenz and Ronny Perry.
“We are the National Plan” is featured in the September-October 2011 issue of el Intérprete magazine. A UMNS photo illustration by Hugo Martínez-Saenz and Ronny Perry. View in Photo Gallery

You don’t need to travel to other countries to see the variety of missionary fields in The United Methodist Church. They are here in your neighborhood, around the corner.

We have about 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States. Some 13 million live in southern California, in the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference.

In 2008, I became the leader of the Office of Latino Ministries in this conference. From the first day, I realized I faced an extraordinary opportunity for the evangelization and growth of the church.

The question was how to meet this challenge. The answer was obvious: Implement the National Plan for Hispanic-Latinos Ministries.

I have known about the plan since its origin, more than two decades ago, and implemented parts of the plan when I served in the Wisconsin and Pacific Northwest conferences. But, the opportunity in southern California was the first time that I could implement the plan in a comprehensive and strategic manner. It was not about parts but, instead, the totality of the vision of the national plan in the entire annual conference.

Working as a team

Two things were readily apparent to me. First, the Hispanic leadership was not united after too many years of not giving attention to this opportunity. Second, there was too much work for one person; we needed a team.

We began by making changes to the two rules of the California-Pacific Conference that applied to Hispanic ministries. We created a Hispanic Conference Committee and a Hispanic Strategic Committee of 11 people.  The changes enabled us to move forward to a position of equality in the structure of the conference.

The Rev. Emilio Müller<br/>A UMNS web-only photo.
The Rev. Emilio Müller
A UMNS web-only photo.

Then we followed the steps in the National Plan for Hispanic-Latinos Ministries:

  • Contact the National Plan
  • Establish relations between the National Plan and the office of Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
  • Begin training facilitators of the plan; all the members of the Hispanic Strategic Committee had to go through the training

While we were doing that, we came up with several special actions:

  • Stop the closing of Hispanic congregations
  • Assist the existing churches and help the development of communities of faith for the growth of new Hispanic ministries
  • Train clergy and lay leaders to assist with the work
  • In some cases, to maintain the integrity of what we were trying to do, close churches and eliminate workers who were bad examples of truly Hispanic ministries

We eliminated nepotism so the leaders could assume their responsibilities as leaders and as part of a team with the mission to grow Hispanic ministries and “create disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The team was made up of people from several countries, socially marginalized groups, and clergy and laity at different levels in their path toward ministry, including both men and women. It was critical to demonstrate that the team can make the decisions and that the director of Latin ministries be present as the resource person in case of a tie, if necessary.


It was the Hispanic Strategic Committee that implemented and guided the process. The strategic committee also followed up with new communities of faith to help in the search and formation of new leaders and in problem-solving as the need arose.

A new relationship with the cabinet was drafted, and a resolution was presented to the 2010 California-Pacific Annual Conference for the creation of the Comprehensive Strategic Plan of the Hispanic Ministries, to begin in 2011. The resolution was approved.

This action created more work for 2010-11, which ended with a planning and vision event directed by members of the National Plan national offices. The event was during a three-day retreat in December. All the members of the cabinet and representatives of the conference's leadership team participated as did members of several of the key conference committees that developed this comprehensive strategic plan.

Revision and evaluation

The next five months were dedicated to sharing the plan at all levels to revise, market and re-evaluate. Several changes were made.

Part of the name was changed so the plan could be viewed and incorporated as a plan for the entire conference. Instead of “Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Hispanic Ministries,” the plan became “Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Ministries with Hispanics.”


The Strategic Plan now has these goals for the next 10 years:

  • Developing transformational leaders, both clergy and lay
  • Developing healthy churches including congregations and ministries
  • Creating a Center of Resources for Hispanic Ministries, referred to in the past as the Methodist Hispanic Academy, to support the above two goals
  • Changing conference structures to provide more support and better development of the plan

On June 18, 2011, the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference approved the strategic plan by a large margin.

As the old strategist would have said: “Friends … we have won the battle! … Now the war begins!”

We now have begun to implement the Strategic Comprehensive Plan for Ministries with Hispanics in the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference, and we will be doing this for the next 10 years.

Ad majoren Deus gloria.

*Müller is the Director of Latino Ministries in the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference, emuller@cal-pac.org

News Media contact: Amanda Bachus, 615-742-5470, or newsdesk@umcom.org


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