This is the second post in a series about Asian American church models. Dr. Benjamin Shin, in a lecture for the Doctor of Ministry in Asian American Ministry at Talbot School of Theology, discusses these different models. Credit is also given to Dr. Hoover Wong, formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary.
Photo by nnecapa. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

This second model is the “Duplex” model. This church has two congregations side-by-side. For example, in the Korean church, this would be the KM, the Korean Ministry, and the EM, the English Ministry. Like a duplex house, two units share the same roof–one leadership.

Often we see that the Duplex model is a progression from the “Room for Rent” model. This EM has often developed from a smaller group used to be comprised of just children and youth. As the kids get older and the English ministry grows, there may be room to add a new service. Maybe they even use the main sanctuary at a different worship time.

In the Duplex model, there is often a parent-child relationship between the mother-tongue congregation and the English congregation. But unlike the “Room for Rent” model, this is more of a reflection of a parent-adult child relationship. The “Duplex” model is fairly common—usually these churches are a bit larger and a bit older than “Room for Rent” churches.

Here are some advantages of the “Duplex Model”:

  • More attention given to the English-speaking congregation.
    There are more adults in the English congregation, eliciting more respect from the church leadership. At this point, there are some deacons and maybe even an elder or two who are from the English congregation. They have more decision-making influence.
  • This model still keeps the family together.
    Like the “Room for Rent” model, the entire family can come in the same car and be “together” at church. Even though the family is split into different places, many Asian families value the proximity.
  • More Americanized churchgoers may feel more comfortable here.
    With the English congregation having more influence over the church’s decisions, the more Americanized generation feels more at home. Music style, aesthetics, preaching style, and even décor can be more Americanized. There is often an English pastor who identifies with the American-born generation.

And, here are some disadvantages:

  • Hinders evangelism to non-Asians.
    Much like the “Room for Rent” model, a duplex church still caters to an Asian crowd. While non-Asians may feel more comfortable in a church with an English-speaking pastor, there are still cultural barriers for the gospel to encounter.
  • Hinders maturity of the English Ministry.
    Young leaders need opportunities to develop and learn responsibility. Much of the decision-making power in this church model lies with the immigrant congregation. The English congregation folks get less opportunity to influence policy or work with the church facility. Often the expectations are that the younger keep quiet and defer to the older ones. Is there opportunity for the EM to have independent ministry?
  • There is still a parent-child relationship.
    This especially comes out when decisions about finances are made.  The immigrant congregation controls the funds, which can affect how ministry is developed. Most often, the immigrant congregation gets the first choice of worship time slot (usually around 10am and 11am) and the English congregation gets left with the less desirable 8:30am or 1:00pm worship time. It is rare that duplex models break out of the parent-child relationship.
The Duplex model–Asian American Churches credit: Benjamin Shin
The Duplex model–Asian American Churches
credit: Benjamin Shin

 Do you have experience in a “duplex” church? Are there any advantages or disadvantages you would add?


Related Posts:

“Room for Rent”: Asian American Church Models
“Triplex”: Asian American Church Models
English Congregation: “Just an Older Version of Youth Ministry”
Advantages and Opportunities of an Immigrant Church
Working Under a Foreign-Born Senior Pastor