Here is the introduction to my D.Min. dissertation proposal. Now that I am finally actually doing something about it I want to share it with my readers. Let me know your feedback. Now you all can help me with my dissertation 😉
(Please note that this section is designed to describe why this study is needed. I don’t want to be overly negative, but to give a balanced description of some of the tensions and challenges faced in ministry in a bilingual immigrant church.)
It’s not easy living in the gap. The children of immigrants find themselves torn between two cultures. They want to honor the hopes and aspirations of their parents, but at the same time they long for acceptance in the only country that they have ever known. They live out one identity at school and with their friends but put on a different one at home. Meanwhile their parents are concerned about the influence of American culture on their children and worry that they will abandon their native language and ethnic heritage.
These two forces often collide at church. The immigrant generation, after living in an English speaking, culturally American world all week long, look forward to experiencing a taste of their home language and culture at church. But for their children it is a very different experience. On Sundays they feel yanked backwards into a culture that they have worked hard to move beyond during the week so that they can fit in with their friends. Of course it is never that simple, because they often value many aspects of their parents’ culture. But the tension is there.
I have experienced this challenge first hand over the past twelve years at a bilingual Chinese church in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I serve as the English Pastor. Like most ethnic immigrant churches, Chinese churches in North America struggle to find effective ways to reach the children and grandchildren of the immigrant generation. Those serving in other Asian immigrant churches have reported similar challenges.
The phenomenon of immigrants moving to a new country and founding a church is nothing new. The challenges currently facing Chinese churches are similar to those faced by other immigrant churches in the past. I will draw on the experiences of those groups to discover principles that contemporary immigrant churches can apply in their ministry.