|Commentary: Extending ministry to Asian Americans|
A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Judy Chung*
July 30, 2008
The Rev. Judy Chung
The Asian American Language Ministry Plan is a United Methodist initiative that is expanding the church’s reach to Asian-American communities across the United States.
Launched in 1996 by action of General Conference, AALM has been an important resource for developing new ministries as well as strengthening existing ones in Asian-American communities that include at least 10 sub-ethnic groups with 15 different languages.
From 2001 to 2006, AALM has been directly involved in 29 church plants, 42 congregational revitalizations and 18 partnerships with United Methodist annual (regional) conferences. I use the term directly because some of these new churches and congregations have, on their own, initiated and supported development of other church plants.
For example, a Chinese church planted in Oklahoma with the support of the AALM already has given birth to three new church plants in eight years of ministry. The Filipino community has developed its own strategic plan called “Paglago” to support development of churches in the United States. Hence, the numbers presented here are only the first fruits of much more growth to come.
AALM also supports exciting and innovative models of mission such as a Chinese ministry launched in Louisiana to target the area’s growing population of unchurched Chinese people. The initiative was launched through a collaborative effort of the Louisiana Annual Conference, the Monroe District, Trinity United Methodist Church in Ruston, La., and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
In its first 18 months, the ministry has received more than 24 individuals on professions of faith, including two respected elders and leaders of the mostly Buddhist Asian community. In addition, the Rev. Joseph Zhong Guo, pastor of the Trinity congregation, has established a network of small groups that meet monthly for Bible study in Chinese in the Monroe and Homer areas. This effort is connecting people to local United Methodist congregations in their own neighborhoods. As such, it is a truly a collaborative effort of many local churches in the Monroe District to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s message of abundant life to unchurched Asian Chinese Americans.
The next generation
AALM is strategically responding to the greatest need of the Asian-American community, reaching out to the next generation by hosting a strategic planning session attended by 12 Asian-American young adult leaders. As a result of this gathering, an Asian-American Young Adult Ministry network has been established for support and sharing of resources. Also, in response to needs expressed by the participants, an Asian-American Young Adult Leadership Summit is scheduled for Oct. 2-4 in Los Angeles.
These are just a few examples of the difference that the AALM is making in our church and for the kingdom of God. Moreover, with the approval of $1.6 million budget for the AALM by the 2008 General Conference, our church has affirmed its commitment to continue this effort of reaching out to an increasing number of first-, second- and third-generation Asian Americans with the emphasis on the following four goals:
- Development of new congregations
- Recruitment and training of pastoral and lay leadership;
- Development of community ministries; and
- Development of language resources and materials
Of course, all of these goals cannot be accomplished by any one individual or even one group. It can only be fulfilled when we, as the church, work in partnership with every member of our body. Whether it’s the leadership of the annual conference, staff of the boards and agencies, pastors of local churches or lay leaders of our communities, there is a role that each partner can play in furthering our mission among these expanding immigrant communities.
Although I recognize and appreciate our churches and leaders who already have committed their resources to Asian-American ministries, there is more we can do. Here are some suggestions:
- Commit to support a new church plant project of another ethnic community by cultivating an ongoing relationship, providing financial support and sharing resources such as youth leaders, Sunday school teachers and English curriculum;
- Make an intentional effort to embrace other Asian-American youth and young adults in existing programs such as retreats, trainings and mission trips; and
- Advocate for other Asian Americans within our connectional system by serving as a candidacy mentor and speaking up for these ministries.
There are many other ways for us to support the goals of the AALM. For us as United Methodists, the most important step is to commit our time, talents and prayer to support our fellow Asian-American sisters and brothers to make disciples of all nations and to yield greater fruit for the kingdom of God.
*Chung is executive secretary of Asian American and Pacific Islanders Ministries, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact: the Rev. David Kim, director, Korean Resources editor, United Methodists in Service, United Methodist Communications, and Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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