As ministry overseers we are often quite adept at letting the team members we lead know what we expect from them. But the very term “team” will be a misnomer if we do not “mutually” understand.
Latinos are highly relational and will go to great lengths to avoid conflict or confrontation. If a Latino coworker does not understand some aspect of his/her work, no doubt a problem will arise. Why? The Latino’s fear of a damaged relationship will often cause him to continue on, as is, with a strong hope that “things will get better.” He may or may not know “what” is wrong, but just senses something is not right. Anglo overseers will often become frustrated and question, “Why are those Latinos like that?” This is an excellent question—and one that should be honestly answered.
The reality is that each cultural grouping will be guided by its values. Decisions, plans and energy will be attuned to try to achieve what is most valued. An example of this could be that an Anglo, supervising church leader may wonder why the monthly statistical report for attendance and offerings is not turned in very faithfully. How could something so simple and basic be ignored and neglected by the Latino pastor?
As Anglos, we highly value organizational structures and systems. The feeling is that if everyone knows the rules and plays by them, we will get along just fine. The reality is this: the concept of structures, systems and rules seems quite abstract, and even cold and sterile to the Latino pastor. What kind of friendship comes from a spreadsheet? Is it so important to record and report exactly how many people attended each service? The Latino is far more interested in the actual interaction he has with those who attend. Is it quantity that is so important to report? Or is the quality of what we did together the more important element?
It’s a fact that both the systems and the people who are guided by those systems are important. They are interactive. As an example, the Anglo overseer knows that come year’s end, next year’s budget will have to be created around the statistical measurements of the current year. His sincere desire is to serve the Latino congregation by supporting it within the larger context of all the affiliated congregations, both Hispanic and all others. But many times, in our rush to create a start-up ministry, we overlook the importance of clearly communicating what we expect of those who serve on our team. The Latino pastor needs to understand “why” the overseer needs the statistical information, and for what purpose it will be used. As he comes to understand that it will be to his benefit to turn in the report, there will be greater incentive to do so. Over time, the practice will become part of his/her normal routine.
The Latino pastor must learn to ask the questions that he/she wonders about (without fearing repercussions) and the Anglo overseer must take the time necessary to be more relational in his/her response. Remember, the time investment made by the Anglo overseer is a high-value interaction for the Latino.
Communication is essential to any relationship. But we often forget to emphasize that clarity in communication is a critical element, in order for the communication to be effective. It is not enough to speak, announce, transmit, email or write. It is not enough to just say what you mean—the hearer must truly understand what you mean (and value it) in order to have mutual understanding.
Communicate your expectations then have the listener repeat them back to you. Clarify anything that is not understood. Then have the other party express his/her expectation. Do this as many times as you need to, to make sure all is well understood by both of you.
An upper-level area supervisor once told me, “I appointed him (a Latino pastor) but I have never really had a meaningful conversation with him because he only speaks Spanish.” In this case, the language barrier made mutual understanding impossible. This is clearly a no-win situation. Do whatever is necessary (have a capable translator) to make clear, two-way communication happen. Then both of you will understand what is expected.
Until the next time,
Hispanic Ministry Consulting
Hispanic Ministry Consulting