23 Million Protestant Hispanic Americans

While looking at demographic data for Latinos/as in the United States, I found two numbers that hit me like a 98-mile-an-hour pitch (pardon my baseball reference, but I am currently distracted by the World Baseball Classic playing in Miami, FL).

Instinctively, I knew this data, but I hadn’t realized it included such staggering figures. To give some context to these two figures that stunned me, we first need to understand that there are approximately 62.9 million Latinos/as in the U.S. (18.9% of the population). Of these 62.9 million Latinos/as, 23 million (38%) are Protestants of various stripes.

Two Astonishing Numbers

What is astonishing is that of the 23 million Latino/a Protestants, 14 million (60%) are women, and 16 million (73%) are 49 years old or younger. The bottom line is that these two numbers tell us that the future of Protestantism in Hispanic America is young women. These numbers are very important and signal a need for church leaders and educators to think about how we shape future leaders in response to these demographic realities.

How We Can Prepare

Some questions and ideas assailed me as I thought about the implications of these numbers.

First, are we recruiting and training more women? Since many more women are in our pews, we must recruit more young Latina women to lead and minister to these congregations.

Secondly, are we preparing men to be effective leaders of churches populated by a female majority? The history of machismo has left many scars. Machismo is abrasive or even abusive maleness, similar to toxic masculinity, and this cultural feature seeps into the church. Pastoral leaders need to prepare to work with women in ways that change the patterns ingrained in the Latino culture and work toward healing those scars.

Finally, are we preparing women to be pastors to men while preserving healthy boundaries and relationships? In many cases, women pastors and leaders carry the burden of the tensions between the two genders. So, learning appropriate boundary-setting, having a healthy and balanced understanding of equality, and being mentored by other women can increase female leaders’ effectiveness.

Incorporating answers to these questions into our curriculum and programs through courses, books, continuing education, and mentorship will help Asbury Theological Seminary significantly impact the future of Protestantism in Hispanic America.

The Asbury Latino Center Equips Women Leaders

Asbury Seminary, through the programs of the Asbury Latino Center, is making an important contribution to the future of Protestantism in Hispanic America. Thanks to our gracious and faithful donors, the Programa de Formación Ministerial (LLSP) and the bilingually-delivered Master of Arts in Ministry have almost 50% female enrollment. These women are equipped to expand their leadership roles within their congregations and communities.

However, we need to increase our efforts to ensure that more young Latina women are recruited. It is not a question of representation. It is not a quest for some empty social justice goal. If young Latina women are the future of Protestantism in Hispanic America, then we need to make sure that more young Latina women are ready to take the mantle of leadership and bring their God-given gifts and unique perspectives to serve the growing Latino/a population in the U.S.

Asbury Seminary is making a critical contribution to the future of Protestantism in Hispanic America. We must sharpen our focus and not let our guard down.