Insights into Planting at Hispanic Serving Institutions

This post is the eighth post in a nine-part series reflecting on InterVarsity's Ambition conference. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage (Series: An Ambition for Mission)

All over the United States, Latino student populations are growing at exponential rates. This has huge implications and exciting challenges for how we do ministry on campus (for some of these, check out my post over on the InterVarsity national blog: How You Can Help Latino Students Finish College).

Here, I want to focus on one of the biggest challenges in this demographic ... you guessed it ... planting new ministry. Hundreds of thousands of Latino college students go to school in places where there is no campus ministry. And some of these schools have extremely large Hispanic student populations.

At the Ambition Conference, I joined Orlando Crespo and a dozen or so students and Staff to talk about planting ministry at Hispanic Serving Institutions (schools with > 25% Hispanic student population).

Here are some of the insights Orlando shared ...

Contextualize to the community

Use this as a jumping off point: what difference would it make if your students still lived in their communities? At HSIs, a lot of students live with their parents. Loads of students have family nearby. Friends from high school are still in the picture.

There is tremendous potential here. One life transformed will shine like a light in the darkness. One campus renewed will send a shockwave through a community. One worldchanger developed will create a missional snowball.

But our planting strategies need to be contextualized and our assumptions about the students we're working with need to be revisited. In some ways, the same tweaks we need to make to serve community colleges will help us at HSIs (for more on this, see Insights into Planting at Community Colleges).

Be inter-ecclesiastically open

Protestants and Catholics need to learn how to work together. Get comfortable with this and you'll have jumped over a huge hurdle to planting ministry at HSIs.

Collaborate with the administration

As I mentioned in the post over at the InterVarsity blog, our presence on campus has the potential to meet large felt needs on campus (re: college completion). On top of this, colleges and universities are still trying to figure out how to do student activities programming for Latinos (we can help with this!). And, even though HSIs receive government grants, many of them are growing so rapidly, they're thrilled to have helpful adults willing to volunteer on campus.

We need to talk with administrators at HSIs, not avoid them. Our presence on campus may be an answer to their prayers.

Have a holistic approach

One of my friends - who planted ministry with Latino students in LA - said that he had to talk to students about Jesus and about diabetes. Talking about diabetes didn't surprise anyone and was essential to building trust.

In general, with Latinos, borders tend to be softer. We expect our doctors to ask about our families. We expect our bosses to talk to us about our personal lives. And when we encounter campus ministers, we expect them to blow through the sacred/secular border (and really, does that border even exist?).

You can't plant at an HSI without engaging students holistically.

Tomorrow's post will be the last in this series and will reflect on Brian Sanders' talk on apostolic missional movements. A link to the post will be published here as soon as the post is posted.


  1. Great thoughts! Any chance to get audio of this session?

  2. Thanks, Eric. So far, no audio from the seminars has been posted. I'll post something here if the audio does show up.