How many Asian American pastors can you name that are nationally-recognized in the Christian community?
Maybe one — Francis Chan.
Even though Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in America (18 million) with over 7,000 churches, there are only a few Asian American pastors who are well known and being invited to large Christian conferences.
This past February, we hosted the first Asian American leadership gathering for the Thirty Network. The Thirty Network is a gathering of 30 Asian American pastors and ministry directors in their 30s (and under) for 30 hours of honest conversations about life and ministry. This invitation-only event connected 30 church leaders into a relational community with access to mentoring, coaching, and ministry opportunities in hopes of shaping the next 30 years of Asian-American Christian leaders in the church. Read more about the first gathering and who showed up.
What’s the end game of these gatherings?
In a recent CNN article, the majority of Americans will look a lot more colorful within the next 30 years. The Pew Research Center analyzed the US 2010 Census and published an article, Rise of Asian Americans, claiming Asian-Americans are outpacing every minority group at a 40% growth rate. In the same article, only 39% of Asian-Americans find religion is “very important” in their lives compared to the general US population at 58%. A rising generation that is fully assimilated into mainstream American culture is becoming a faithless people group. Our American churches prepared in developing future leaders readily equipped to engage a majority-minority demographic? Healthy conversations with diverse, catalytic leaders could begin shaping a new future for the church at large.
What did we learn from the first Thirty Gathering?
With a sensible start-up budget, the Thirty Network partnered with several sponsors to invite noted So-Cal Asian American leaders who were recommended by credible pastors. At the end of 30 interactive hours, we surveyed all participants and found positive feedback towards continuing these helpful gatherings.
Most stated they would return, if the event were offered again.
Areas of developmental interest were Strategic Planning, Assimilation, and Staff Care.
All respondents would recommend this gathering to a friend.
Participants found high value in the event and noted what they appreciated:
“Valued spending time and fellowshipping with other pastors and workers.”
“Meeting kingdom minded brothers and sisters.”
“Brainstorming sessions and ideas from others.”
“Cross table conversations and meals”
“Networking, being encouraged, stimulating conversations”
Where do we go from here?
I’m so glad you asked. We’ve already have several requests from key stakeholders who are highly interested in bringing the Thirty Gathering to strategic cities of interest: Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Washington DC. At the same time, we’re continuing to fine-tune the gathering based on participant feedback and outside observations. We want to be confident participants will walk away knowing that they are apart of something GREAT which may help shape the next 30 years in mainstream churches.
Our recommendation is to offer the second gathering in the Los Angeles area of October 2016, where a high concentration of Asian-American leaders minister. Based on the financial model, we believe the price point of $75 will continue to attract, while maintaining a high value proposition. At the same time, we will still need additional financial sponsorship and outside grants. Once a sustainable ministry and financial model can be met, future expansions into strategic cities with high Asian-American accessibility will be more feasible and worthwhile.
How can you advance the Thirty Network?
You and your ministry can actively support the advancement of Asian-American church leaders in the following ways:
Stay updated with what’s going on.
Recommend potential leaders that would benefit from this network.
Connect potential sponsors sharing the same vision of developing church leaders.
Resource the Thirty Network with finances, facilities, and content experts.
We will continue to explore different learning modalities and be intentional with forming learning community groups for more in-depth ministry discussions. In addition, future gatherings will provide a larger sample in drawing a more accurate picture of what Asian American ministry leaders will need to navigate and thrive in mainstream American churches.
Thank you for your continued support of the Thirty Network.
The Thirty Network
DJ Chuang | Angela Yee | John Shin | Sam Yoon | Kevin Nguyen
Not too long ago, I ran across this picture-only book, East Meets West by Yang Liu (YES, I am big fan of books with fewer words). The author attempted to depict intercultural dynamics between the Eastern-Asian culture versus the Western-Anglo culture. Some of the illustrations may be a bit exaggerated, I thought this picture (above) resonated most with me. Read more HERE and see which ones you gravitate towards.
After I wrestled through my own identity, God made it very clear that He gave me East and West experiences in order to prepare me for this season of ministry at Saddleback Church.
Being the first Asian-American campus pastor in a predominantly Western-Anglo church, I was received and accepted with open arms. It was liberating and refreshing to be invited into a church culture that was obviously anointed by God and pursuing His mission all the time.
However, it wasn’t always easy navigating a church culture that didn’t think like me.
Above, the blue picture represented how Western cultures deal with problems. On the other hand, the red picture, describes how “I” was indirectly taught to handle problems.
You can only imagine how one could struggle with leading staff, teaching members, resolving conflict with volunteers, or leading up to elders and pastors. Yikes!
But God is always gracious. There was saving grace in the loving people he placed around me at the church, and my awesome team that supported my leadership style.
I strongly believe that’s why I am so passionate about activating a new generation of Asian-American leaders who will wholeheartedly serve the church. The world’s population is changing fast, becoming more urbanized, diversified, and modernized. Especially in America, we are seeing the population becoming more Asian-ized. Recent census data and demographic research report a population growth of over 40% in the last 10 years, exceeding Latino Americans (see DJ Chuang’s article at edstetzer.com).
I’ve been privileged to receive mentoring from great leaders and organizations. Through this journey of learning, I am always reminded of King David, “For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, …” (Acts 13:36a NET).
Before I die, I want to run as fast as I can in advancing Asian-American leadership for the ever-growing diverse churches in America. We are to be stewards of developing leaders to better pastor the next 30 years.
This February, I helped host the first Thirty.Network Gathering. 30 Asian-American church leaders, recommended by credible pastors, gathered together for 30 hours to listen, learn, and lead change in advancing Asian-American church leaders for the next 30 years. The intent was to provide a SPACE for healthy conversations in sharpening each other in cross-cultural communications, leadership development, and strategic planning in a peer-to-peer learning environment.
30 hourswas way too brief, but I did walk away with 30 gold nuggets. I made 30 new friends and co-laborers who will help me better serve my local church and use my influence, resources, and time to help shape the future for the next 30 years.
My hope is that you can find your own fulfillment and identity with the Thirty.Network. Join the conversation and help shape the next 30 years.
This is the dream of a small group of Asian American pastors and ministry directors. We are stepping out in this faith adventure to raise up more Asian American pastors for the universal church. Yes, that’s a big idea, a God-sized idea. We want to do our part, a small part, of contributing to the Body of Christ, for the multiethnic churches in multicultural America and all kinds of churches in the world. We are theThirty.
What’s the Big Idea
We believe that Asian American pastors have something valuable and unique to contribute to the Church with the very essence of who they are and who God has created them to be at this time in this generation. TheThirty seeks to facilitate conversations, provide resources, and make connections that will actively strengthen the mainstream evangelical church.
Taking the First Steps
We are building this plane as it flies, as the saying goes something like that. We don’t have everything planned out for years in advance. We have started sharing the big idea of the Thirty with a handful of potential ministry partners with vital connections to the mainstream evangelical church. We are very encouraged to hear of the affirmation and positive responses to the idea and the growing opportunities to creating the future together.
Gatherings of the Thirty
We are looking for Asian American pastors and ministry directors (in their 30s, and some in the 20s too) who are talented, teachable, and making buzz-worthy impact in their local church and beyond their local church. We would invite 30 of these young pastors to a regional gathering for 30 hours in a trusted relational environment to share:
conversations with wise sages in church leadership,
discussions for peer-to-peer mentoring,
connections to ministry opportunities and collaborations
preparations for the next 30 years of fruitful ministry
Our first gathering will be a beta test; and we’ll refine as we go. We’re dreaming and praying for maybe 2 or 3 gatherings in the first year, which would be 2016. The first one scheduled for February 2016 in SoCal.
We are connecting with a few to serve the whole church and we plan to publicly share the learnings that come from these gatherings. And that’s what this team blog is for.
Who Are We
We are a small group of Asian American Christians with hearts fully-committed to the local church. We believe that churches and pastors working together is a good thing and we need to do more of this good thing.
We are doing this as a labor of love for God and out of the overflow of the blessings we have received from the mainstream evangelical church. In other words, we’re starting out by running the operations of theThirty to very lean, with minimal organizational overhead, to be agile, impacting, and reproducible.