Noemi Saucedo Chavez is co-pastor of Seventh Street Church in Long Beach, California. She has a heart for women and the Latino church and is committed to raising up the next generation to serve their community and the future church. Noemi is also an influencer among 30 under 40 in Long Beach, a group of young leaders in the city. I sat down with Noemi to discuss leadership, mentorship, and culture.
Noemi, please tell our readers a little about yourself and your leadership experiences.
For the first 29 years of my life, I grew up in an all Spanish-speaking church. I eventually began leading as a youth pastor. I am a California State University (LA) graduate, and after eight years of teaching, God called me to ministry. Then I became an associate pastor. My husband and I intentionally planted an English-speaking church in East Los Angeles seven years ago. Los Angeles is filled with Spanish-speaking churches, but many second- and third-generation Latinos are not Spanish speakers. After a merger with another church, we now serve a healthy multicultural, socio-economically diverse congregation.
I don't think many people understand the difficulty associated with pastoring any congregation. I can only imagine that shepherding a multicultural, socio-economically diverse congregation has its own unique challenges. How do you navigate these challenges and serve the people God has allowed you to influence?
I continually ask God to stretch my capacity. The key to leading in a multicultural setting is asking the Holy Spirit to teach us how to journey with people whose stories do not look like ours. One of the most difficult revelations I got about myself was that serving with people who are different culturally was not the real challenge–as a matter of fact, that made ministry and serving exciting. Instead, the challenges were in shepherding individuals who continuously made choices that reflected unhealthy patterns of brokenness.
The new word in my vocabulary became grace. The Lord reminded me that he uses broken people–me being the first example, and then the countless legends in the Scriptures, from orphans to liars and cheaters. My assignment was clear: lead people to Jesus. For that reason I am committed to sharing the Word of God without compromise and loving people where they are and finding ways to give individuals the opportunity to connect in the church. Allowing them to serve in their current place of brokenness gives them the opportunity to give back to the place where they regularly receive hope.