Over half of evangelical leaders (53 percent) attend churches that have immigrant or refugee ministries, according to the November Evangelical Leaders Survey. Some of the ministries described include English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, welcome teams for refugee families, legal aid, and financial support for organizations that provide direct assistance.
“While immigration reform and refugee resettlement continue to be discussed in Washington, D.C., churches across the country are finding tangible and heartfelt ways to love the stranger,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
World Relief, the NAE’s humanitarian arm, partners with many of these churches — providing education materials, immigrant legal aid services, and connections to newly arriving refugee families. Ron Hamilton, conference minister of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, said his local church’s welcome team connects with refugee families resettled by World Relief, helping them furnish their homes, orient their children to school, and assist with employment.
Jim Tolle’s church, El Camino Metro in Los Angeles, has six services in Spanish and English, and strategically focuses on immigrant ministry. The church hosts ESL and high school equivalency degree classes, a vocational school, internship programs, food assistance, and legal aid. “We address many of the needs found in this community, always trying to avoid the hot-button political issues in the interest of ‘reaching all for Christ,’” he said.
Some who belong to churches that do not have a formal immigrant or refugee program said that their churches minister to refugees and immigrants through other church programs, such as food assistance. Others noted that their churches help individuals and families on a case-by-case basis or through a mercy ministry fund.
Anderson said, “Scripture invites Christians to care for refugees and foreigners. Some churches do a lot. Others do some. Many could do more.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.