This is the fifth 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. You can see a page with all of the models here.
This model is the “Hotel” model. Asian Americans will often decide to attend a very large church, typically a megachurch. These churches tend to cater well to many different people, and an individual’s experience can be highly specialized. It is as if a person has their own private room at a hotel.
Asian churches in America rarely go over the 2000+ attendee mark. So this “hotel” church is often a predominantly white church. In some cases, these churches will have a vision to be multi-ethnic.
In many cases, the Room For Rent –> Duplex progression is discouraging for an attendee. Discouraged individuals will often blame the difficulties they’ve faced on the fact that their churches are ethnic-specific, and will leave to attend a “Hotel” model. Sometimes they might even go from the Room for Rent model straight to the Hotel model.
Asian Americans will attend a hotel church often as a stop-over. These individuals will typically attend for 3-5 years at most, and then move on. This is especially true if they are young and single professionals.
Here are some advantages of the “Hotel Model”:
- An Abundance of Resources.
These churches usually have great preaching, high-quality music and sound, and many different activities that appeal to a lot of people. They are often driven by a high profile pastor personality. There is more availability of specialized ministries. It is highly individualized, like a person having their own private room in a hotel.
- Multi-ethnic Opportunities.
In hotel model churches, Asian Americans have the opportunity to worship and discuss their faith with white Americans, or other ethnicities. There are times that they can be in community with different ethnicities that they may not have while attending an ethnic-specific church. Also, many megachurches are beginning to develop ethnic-specific groups and ministries to reach a more diverse group of people. Ethnic-specific fellowships can have their own “hotel room” within the large hotel. An Asian American churchgoer may feel more comfortable inviting their non-Asian friends to a hotel model church.
- The appeal of remaining anonymous.
A hotel model is a great place to “hide”. There are megachurches who have many folks who are former leaders, pastors, and deacons from smaller churches. Often Asian Americans go to these hotel model churches to “be healed”. There is no pressure. They can “just receive.”
And, here are some disadvantages:
- Consumer Mindset.
An individual who has left their ethnic-specific church to attend a hotel model church can easily develop the mindset of a consumer: “What can this place offer me?” They can often develop a critical spirit towards their former church. It is often difficult for someone to have a sense of ownership with a larger church. One can forget the biblical values of the church as a family and how one’s spiritual gifts contribute to the church.
- Loss of opportunity to explore how faith intersects with the Asian American experience.
As a hotel model church seeks to reach a mass of people, it becomes more difficult to contextualize ministry vision towards a specific group of people. Ethnic-specific Asian American churches have the opportunity to discuss and explore issues regarding race, culture, and ethnicity. It seems like few of them do it, at least on the English-speaking sides. This is a missed opportunity–one that is often overlooked.
- The difficulty of being anonymous.
Hotel model churches are very large and often impersonal. One can worship at a church and never see the same people on a weekly basis. It can be very hard to feel connected. Asian Americans, who already tend to be less assertive by nature, often find it difficult to break in. One has to be extremely motivated to get involved. Furthermore, Caucasians often do not know how to handle or relate to Asians. It is extremely rare to see Asian Americans on leadership or staff at hotel model churches.
Do you have experience in a “Hotel” church? Are there any advantages or disadvantages you would add?