Dr. Robert Reyes, Program Director of the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School, has been invited to serve as the program evaluator for a new initiative that will examine “what makes Latino congregations thrive.”
The project is led by Esperanza USA and is funded by the religion division of the Lilly Endowment. Esperanza USA is connected with Esperanza College, a Christin Hispanic Serving Junior College associated with Eastern University.
Reyes shared that the goal of the Thriving Congregations project is “to support Latino congregations within the Greater Philadelphia area to explore and understand their rapidly changing social and cultural contexts, gain greater clarity about their values and mission and draw on Christian practices from their theological and ecclesial traditions to adapt their ministries to the demands of changing contexts.”
Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Reyes joined LBC | Capital in the summer of 2021 and previously served at Messiah University as Professor of Human Development and Family Science, as well as the Research Director for the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning and Professor of Sociology at Goshen College in Indiana. His PhD in Marriage and Family Studies and Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family comes from Fuller Seminary, and he is also a Certified Family Life Educator and Clinical Fellow of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. While at Fuller, Reyes was also part of the Navy Chaplain Candidate Program and volunteered as an assistant pastor for a Salvadorian group in Burbank, Calif.
Reyes’ research interests include the study of acculturative stress and coping among Latino families and the study of racial reconciliation, particularly the development of effective leadership strategies in the growth of urban multicultural/multiracial churches.
Reyes also shared the program goals for the new Esperanza USA project:
Goal 1: To facilitate exploration of participating church’s mission and missional expressions concerning several primary shifts:
- Gentrification of traditionally Latino areas in Philadelphia and the impact on their ministry relationship to those physical neighborhoods.
- Whether to identify as a Latino or multi-ethnic congregation and how these decisions impact congregants’ engagement and the unchurched across generations.
- The impact of technology is increasingly significant given the current COVID-19 uncertainty upon how community and relationship are defined.
Goal 2: To foster a sense of community and support throughout the cohort for this ongoing work necessary for thriving congregations.
Goal 3: To equip congregations to reflect, articulate and apply the result of their explorations in support of their ministries, with both funding and technical assistance support.
According to Reyes, Esperanza will recruit 20 churches over four years (10 churches per cohort, per two years) who willing to make a two-year commitment to a learning and reflective experience for engagement and application. Esperanza’s staff and contracted trainers will walk leadership and congregational members through various stages to articulate and clarify their mission and purpose and define how their congregation will choose to respond to a changing society.
“My role will be to serve as the program evaluator,” Reyes said. “In this role, I will be responsible for developing the evaluation design; supervising and assisting in data collection efforts; developing evaluation questions; providing data analysis; and submitting an evaluation report at the end of this year.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to examine the internal and community factors affecting Latino urban churches,” he continued. “I think the insight that I will gain by participating in this process will enrich the DMin program at LBC | Capital and its ability to address pressing concerns that exist among Latino and urban churches. I am also hopeful that I may be able to involve DMin doctoral students who may be interested in contributing to this type of research.”
LBC | Capital’s Doctor of Ministry program encompasses life-changing education that promotes empirical research, creative reflection and practical application to ministry. Taught through the lens of Scripture and focused on equipping students with the tools they need to think critically about living out their ministry, the DMin degree empowers students to lead in an entirely new way.
Designed for students who have already earned their Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, the program is indeed well-suited for pastors but also for missionaries, parachurch ministry leaders, teachers and other Christian leaders who aim to heighten their professional development.
LBC | Capital’s DMin program doesn’t require full-time residency, allowing students to remain active in their ministries or vocations. Courses are delivered in a unique, blended learning model that combines online and face-to-face classes—and requires just 18 days of residency in Lancaster, Pa., for the entire program.