Schism at Church, Learning a New Language, and Need of Loving Help from You All

Updated on September 17, 2012
L.L. asks from Austin, MN
14 answers

Thanks in advance for sticking with me. I'll try to make this brief, but I've not been this upset in a long time.

I have been attending my Baptist church since I was 8. I'm 31. I took some time off from 18-24, but when I had children I came back and after that long, was finally saved. Thank God. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I've learned so much (far more than growing up in this same church, whole 'nother story.)

There's been a break in my church, and it breaks my heart. People I have known almost my whole life have raised a revolt against our pastor and his wife (who, in my eyes, are wonderful people) because they don't like all the change...they've been there 40+ years, etc. You get the idea without me going into detail.

So, today my pastor resigned. I knew this was coming, and I think it's for the best, regardless of my own personal sadness. I need encouragement.

Okay, part 2, and thanks again so much for sticking with me (if you have!)...

There is an entire Hispanic congregation at my church. Started with one family, and kept growing until they have 4 times as many as us (us meaning Caucasian, Sudanese, Vietnamese, but all English speaking). We have hired a Hispanic pastor (two years ago) and it continues to grow. I was playing piano for the regular congregation, but God had put it on my heart to learn Spanish over the last several years and also to play with their band, etc. I have become close with these people, they are my generation, and without their children, my two children would be the ONLY ONES in the church.

They are leaving, because after what has happened to our pastor they are afraid it will happen to their pastor next and I don't blame them. They have lovingly and wholeheartedly asked that my family go with them, and I intend to...but my Spanish is just mediocre and of course my children (7 and 2) do not speak Spanish.

I need to know the best way, in your experience, to really progress in my language and to teach my children. I don't have money for a program. I do all right...I can converse freely...but I know that when I sit down to listen to a sermon in Spanish, I will be lost.

I am so sorry this was so long. I cannot explain how much heartbreak and turmoil I am going through...I want to stay for the few people left upstairs that I love, but if I stay, there will no longer be a Sunday School class or friends for my children and most of my friends will be gone too.

Help, advice, suggestions, and encouragement are all appreciated...thanks, Mamas.

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So What Happened?

Thanks the support, ladies...some suggestions about language have helped.

I must say I'm surprised at how many of you think I shouldn't stay with all of my brothers and sisters. Maybe I didn't explain right. Half of my church is leaving...the Spanish speaking half...and it's these people who have cared for me, and that I have cared for and fellowshipped with for the past many years. And I do speak Spanish...but my fluency is not good enough for me to understand every part of a sermon, for example...and my children do not speak it.

The Sunday School classes for the Spanish congregation will still be taught in English, so that's what's in it for my children. And church is largely for fellowship for us, because at home we read our Bibles for at least an hour a day and do Bible studies and talk about God and pray throughout the day. Our entire lives are Christ focused, and Church is a time for us to come together with out brothers and sisters in Christ to fellowship and praise God. :) I'm not worried about lack of learning, I guess.

I don't know...I'm just upset that I will miss the few "anglo and other" friends I have left, but we will have no pastor, no Sundays Schools, and no Nursery left when the HIspanic congregation goes and so there REALLY wouldn't be anything for my children. Don't want to stay in a place that has actively attacked a good pastor and teacher because they want "their" church back.

I imagine they might consider translating for me...but it seems like a lot to ask just for my sake. :)

ANd hard to find a new church...there are about 20 churches in my town, but I am Baptist for a reason and there's only one other Baptist church...and they are a mess. I want to stick with my regular Baptist church.

Well, again, ladies, thanks for your encouragement and advice.

More Answers



answers from Seattle on

Your kids are young enough that they'll be fine... speaking from a child who grew up overseas... even when my fluency was half-ish I got AS MUCH from the Japanese lessons as I did the English lessons. (Kids minds do wander rather a lot)... but kids also pick up full fluency fairly quickly. ESP with the other children in their sunday school classes, and playing... they're getting some language immersion... that in a couple years mean that they'll be totally fluent (a couple months if you were fully immersed).

I would suggest something I did in school, when I only half understood the language... record it. Then work with a native speaker AFTERWARDS to translate. My fluency, and also my comprehension of the LESSON, skyrocketed. Soon enough, I didn't need to record lessons anymore, I just needed to jot down specific phrases.

If you could ask a member (or a couple of members) to help you translate the sermons... you may find yourself getting a LOT more (spiritually) out of them, as well as a tailored language instruction you could never hope to get out of a software program or college course.

((Which... btw... is option B. You can audit a college class, typically, for the cost of a single credit... which for community college is around $80.))

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

If we are to always live a life of comfort, then we would never turn to God for anything. You are being tested and refined my friend. Embrace it because God is using you to carry out His work, either at your old church or your new one! Your job is to walk close to Him, stay sharp but also to "bloom whereever He decides to plant you :)

As for your Spanish, the kind of Spanish you want to have is the kind you learn when someone is fully immersed. This is not your case. At best, you'll use your Spanish on Sunday mornings and the occassional weekly Bible study or congregational meeting, meaning, no matter if you learn alot of Spanish on your own via class or computer program, you won't retain it as much cuz you won't be using it every minute of every day (unless you work at the Spanish church or move to a Spanish speaking country).

I suggest you start at home, learning your family's common phrases like "Please pass the salt" or "Are you feeling ok?" or "Clean your room!". Say the phrase/words in Spanish and then say it in English so your family can learn along with you. Use an online translation site. Also, see if your library has Spanish books for kids...they will be bi-lingual and in short sentences. I would even try checking out Spanish picture books to work on your common household and everyday vocabulary. Again, these will be common words you can use every day with your family.

During church struggles, the best thing you can do is make sure whatever you say, do, hear, listen to and participate in will always bring glory to God. If it means walking away, then walk away. If it means to stay and endure the slander and gossip (but not partaking!) then stay. Disgruntled congregations have a way of developing a mob mentality and its always best to stay out of it, esp if you don't want to dishonor your former pastor and his family. The worst thing you can do it put yourself and your feelings first. Pray, ask the Lord to show you what He wants to accomplish, and then ask Him to help you hear Him. Make it all about God and you'll be surprised at how more clear your options will be.

I pray for your church and all those who have been hurt by this. Its no fun when your church family are fighting and at each others throats. May God bless and keep you all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I recently went through something similar in my church. A couple of years ago we had to let our two ministers go due to our financial situation (we could only afford one full time minister). They were both welcome to reapply for the job. It was a very difficult decision to make, but necessary. Neither minister wanted to continue in our church as they wanted to be part of a team ministry, so our congregation went into a period of transition. At this time many members, including several families with young kids, left our congregation. I didn't look at it as a sinking ship that I needed to abandon, but an opportunity to start something new. I was on the transition team, and we hired a transitional minister to work with us for a two year period. We finished our transition in June, and have just hired a new minister who will start in the advent season. (In the meantime we have a temporary Sunday supply minister.) I am very excited about the new minister we have called. She has an amazing amount of experience and education, and I believe she has been sent to us by God to serve a purpose. I urge you not to abandon your congregation. Sometimes a congregation needs to go through a period of change.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It sounds like God is leading you, and you could follow. Your Spanish will improve if you continue this and your kids will learn Spanish. See if your library has simple children's books in Spanish, get books your kids know in English and begin reading to them in Spanish. With the pictures, and the familiar story, you'll all get the jist of the story and pick up new words!! Get some CD's with children's songs in Spanish as well. Being Bilingual is a great benefit for children (check out the research!!) You'd be doing a great service for your children!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Here's my take on it, which is from a Catholic perspective, but I think could be helpful to you because a large portion of my family is Protestant, and I have been to many Protestant services during my life.

For me, as a Catholic, it doesn't really matter to me what language the sermon is offered in, because that is such a minor part of our church services. Our church services are all about the ritual of re-presenting the sacrifice Christ made for us on Calvary. The music and all of that is all nice and fun, but the heart of the matter is the Mass. Many of our priests are actually TERRIBLE preachers, but still great priests.

It is different with Protestant services. Yours are much more centered on the preaching. If you cannot comprehend the depth of the sermon, what will you be getting out of it? Will you be going only for the fellowship and music? If so, is God still the center of your service? Will it be the worship of God, or of friends?

ETA: I occasionally attend Masses that are offered in Arabic or Aramaic, and the sermons are in Arabic. I sit there like an idiot during the sermon and don't get any of it, although I generally know what is being said in conversational Arabic. I tend to daydream during those sermons, and it takes all my effort to keep my focus on God. It is ok from time to time, but if I had to do it every week it'd be quite frustrating. I can't WAIT for the sermon to finish so we can get on with the Mass.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would tell them this - that you feel that your family would be missing the message by not knowing Spanish. I would also look into Rosetta Stone or similar or see if there is any school program for the kids. It's hard when a pastor is a bad fit for a congregation, but you have to choose the church that fits your family's needs best - with or without your friends or this pastor.

What I might do is visit with the friends at their church every now and then, and then shop around for a church where there are children and other things that feed your spiritual needs. Had my church not started to have more kids for DD to attend class with, I was going to look around - not because I disliked the church but because DD needs a church she can grow in.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

I don't understand..."they" are leaving and going....where? To the Spanish speaking congregation? they are your friends-then you probably know all the Spanish you need to know-can they absolutely not learn one single word or phrase of English? I then see why you have the urgency to learn Spanish right away. I, too, would be compelled to learn someone's language were they not at all able to communicate. Maybe the following will help:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on


I am so so sorry this is happening in your church! I completely understand. My last church went through a huge divide and the majority of the people left. The best advice I have for you is to go with your heart. If you feel you should leave the church, then do so. Pray about it, talk to your family about it and counsel with the other pastor that is leaving. Maybe they will have some insight as to what to do. It is scary when churches divide and separate, but it takes that sometimes for the whole church to grow as a whole and individually. If churches constantly stay the same, with the same people, doing the same things, then you get the same result. No newcomers or growth etc. Change good and bad can always be good. You will find the good in this.

Also, just because you leave the church and follow the others, doesn't mean you have to lose your friendships or relationships. You can still take care of your family spiritually and see your friends socially. Hang in there and my prayers are with you. M

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My church has a Brazillian congregation that meets in our church, and their service is in a combination of Portugese and English. They have headsets and offer translation services during the service, so that anyone can attend. Is there any way that the Spanish congregation can offer some translation services during the sermon? Also, any way that part of their service will be in English.

Another option is to find another church altogether. A strong youth program is important for your kids, and it sounds like your home church no longer meets your family's needs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

go onto your local library's website and see if they subscribe to Mango Languages. It should be free on the library website. I've heard that it's a great way to learn a foreign language - better than Rosetta Stone! and it's free!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I worry more about your kids really. How are they going to learn what they need to learn in a Spanish-speaking church? Church to me is really important for children. More so than for ourselves because we have really learned all the basics of faith. Your children are just beginning. There is no way I would put my kids in a situation where they were just there, and not learning, just because someone wanted me to play the piano and I had friendships I didn't want to give up.

Long story short, you should focus on what will be best for your kids.

I have been to several different churches, and all but one have had upheavals like you are describing. People are human. Stuff happens and people come and go. But when you go, you should be sure that you find a place that fits all your needs and is BETTER than the last place. If I were you, I would do some searching around before I settled on the Spanish congregation. Could you possibly just play for them during a service or two but take your kids somewhere else to worship at a different time?



answers from Charlotte on

I'm sorry for you, your church, and your pastor, first off. I hope that the church survives after losing so much of its congregation.

I have to admit that I do not think that you should attend a church where you cannot understand the language. They like you, they want your piano playing, but it is for THEM that they want you. Your needs will not be fulfilled by attending a non-English speaking church.

Either stay with your current church and hope that with the change-over, families with children will start attending, or find another church.

I'm sorry - good luck.


answers from Houston on

I am going through a VERY similar thing in my church. It has been a real identity crisis, I can assure you. I think it's most important to be in a place that is uplifting you you and your family. So, weigh the pros and cons of where you are and where you are going.

Honestly, I would rather not go the Spanish route... but I would possibly find a good church home that fits your families needs, with a strong youth setting. Also, some churches provide ear pieces and translators. Perhaps you may be able to find a congregation that offers something like that for the other family too.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I am sorry but I have to say this---it really bothers me that the spanish speaking citizens of our country cannot learn and use our native language. You don't get into the reasons why the elders of your chuch turned on your pastor but I am guessing this might have been a part of it.

I do think that you should look for another church alltogether rather than attend this spanish church. If the main reason that you are switching is so that your children will have friends then surely there has to be other churchs in your area that are more family focused. Attendance at church should be first and foremost about worshiping God. Friends you make there are nice but understanding the sermon should be more important.

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