By Brian Byersdorf
Bear Creek Baptist Church’s vision is “to be a gospel-centered disciple-making community for all people,” and they truly live out that vision each and every day in their ministry.
They actually started as a home Bible study group in 1977, founded by seven couples in West Houston. Their vision was for a new church that would serve the existing area and a rapidly growing community for generations to come. At that time, only a few neighborhoods existed. However, they saw potential as Houston continued to grow westward with new neighborhoods, homes, and most importantly, new people who needed Christ. In 1978, the small Bible study became a mission worshipping community in a KinderCare, and by 1981, they bought a field and constructed a building where they began life together as a church with more than 175 members. Throughout the last forty years, they have continued to build, reach and make disciples.
Diversification of their ministry
Like many churches in Texas, Bear Creek began to see a significant influx of Spanish-speaking members and grappled with how to best serve its evolving congregation. In fact, the Hispanic population in general has seen rapid growth in the United States, increasing by more than12 million people in just 10 years, with roughly 13% of Americans speaking Spanish today. Moreso, the U.S. is tied for third-largest Spanish speaking country in the world, ahead of Spain itself.
In response to the natural diversification of its congregation, Bear Creek began to reimagine what their ministry could look like for future generations of churchgoers. In the infancy of Bear Creek’s Spanish Ministry efforts, they started exploring with a simple translation of their worship services. They included access to a headset that members could use to listen to a live translation. While great in concept, the technology wasn’t always accurate. It became obvious that a new approach was needed in order to provide a better experience for their community.
“We knew we could do a lot better,” said Tim Hill, Executive Pastor at Bear Creek Baptist Church. “We started working with our Spanish ministry leaders. At that time, we had a growing group of Spanish speaking worshipers for Bible study on Sunday morning, so we knew we had a core group that might be interested in helping expand our ministry program. From there, we started doing some preview services.”
They decided to go all-in on their Spanish ministry. In 2014, Bear Creek started offering a monthly Spanish-language worship service that attracted around 60 attendees. Due to its increasing popularity, Bear Creek increased the frequency to weekly services. Today, their staff includes a Spanish ministries pastor, a Spanish ministry preschool staff member and a handful of other bilingual staff and volunteers. The church has a full-time Spanish ministries department that works to offer worship and ministry programs both in-person and online. Currently, Bear Creek reaches more than 400 people each week in its Spanish ministry, with more than 200 members and families attending in person every week.
Multilingual technology solutions to build community
Bear Creek has been utilizing Pushpay technology for years, which has helped them reach and connect with their growing congregation over the years — both in-person and online.
However, some new features have welcomed new possibilities and connection opportunities with their members this year. Pushpay’s Spanish web-giving feature has been a game-changer for their community. The feature allows congregants to select their language preference and switch to Spanish on the donation page. The feature helps bolster confidence and understanding by fully translating the giving process, which includes online giving fields and screens, thank you pages, need help screens, email receipts for one-time and recurring gifts, and SMS security codes.
Bear Creek is also rolling out the LEAD app, a mobile application made for Pastors and church leadership teams that delivers data and information they need to better understand their community. It enables leaders to see patterns of connection and involvement so they can better minister to their congregants. The LEAD app also has a language translation feature, which has been incredibly impactful for their Spanish ministry leaders.
These are just some of the ways technology has provided richer and more meaningful experiences to Bear Creek’s Spanish-speaking members, which has helped increase engagement — and ultimately retention — within their congregation. Over the years, Bear Creek has been able to maintain a loyal online following in other areas of the world. In fact, they did a survey recently and found that they are reaching people in more than 20 countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba and more.
“As people’s lives change, or they move away, they still love our church, so they join us online. Offering services and technology in Spanish allows many people from our online community to still fully engage and give and support the ministry, which in turn allows us to continue to offer services like that. And I know not every church has bilingual services, and in Spanish. But for us, the technology has been a huge value in helping build our ministry,” said Hill.
Technology has been a critical component to Bear Creek’s ministry strategy, which has allowed them to reduce barriers for its Spanish-speaking congregation members. Multilingual ministry platforms such as Pushpay help improve engagement and retention for churches, allowing leaders to encourage the growth of their community.
Brian Byersdorf is Director of Product Marketing at Pushpay. For more information about how we’re working with churches to build community and inspire generosity, visit pushpay.com.