Home > Blog > The Need for Churches Among New Immigrants from China

May 3, 2016

The Need for Churches Among New Immigrants from China

By Linda Bergquist

Over 2 million Mainland Chinese immigrants now live in the United States, and almost 900,000 live in Canada. Much of this movement from The People’s Republic of China to North America happened after 1978 when the PRC decided to both connect more widely with the global economy and to release some of its most stringent immigration policies. China is now the 4th largest source country of all migration. Approximately one fourth of all emigrants from Mainland China settle in the United States. This growth has been so profound that in 2013 China replaced Mexico as the #1 country of origin, with 147,000 recent U.S. immigrants. This means that even if churches are started only among Chinese who are already Christians, many new churches are still needed.

Languages and Peoples

There are 650 people groups, 56 recognized ethnic groups, and 297 living languages in China, so naturally, Chinese in North America are also from many distinct backgrounds. Considered collectively (i.e.: Cantonese, Taishanese, Mandarin) Chinese is the 3rd most spoken language in the U.S. Increasingly, and for a variety of reasons, Mandarin is replacing Cantonese as the predominant language of new immigrants. Most existing Chinese churches are Cantonese speaking, which means new Mandarin speaking congregations are essential for new immigrants. There is also a need to share Christ and start churches among people who speak other Chinese dialects.

Religious Patterns

Although only 5% of China’s population identifies as Christian, a 2012 Pew study of Asian Americans, showed that 31% of the Chinese surveyed (predominantly mainland Chinese) said that they are Christian. Over half said they have no religion, while most others were Buddhist. Yet 75% of all Asian Americans, including Chinese, willingly participate in some Christian based celebrations such as Christmas. There is great opportunity to invite neighbors and co-workers to our outreaches!

Who are they?

Wealthy Investors: The EB-5 visa is a green card-type provision for internationals who invest large sums of money in the United States. There is a similar program for wealthy investors in Canada, attracting record numbers of a new kind of economic migrant. Around 64% of China’s millionaires have already emigrated or plan to, and the U.S. and Canada are their first choices. Real estate is a top priority— Chinese nationals account for 24% of real estate sales in the U.S.

Business professionals: Earlier immigration of Chinese workers to the United States and Canada were largely service industry persons. Now, they are mostly business professionals, individuals working in STEM sectors, designers and more. The level of education is high (over 50% are college educated), and so is the rate of mobility as they travel back and forth not only to China, but internationally. Imagine a mobile global missions force created by people from the world’s most populous nation!

Students: For the last 6 years, educational migrants from China have been the #1 source of foreign students to the United States (304,040 during the 2014-15 school year). This is more than the next four countries (India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada) all counted together. Ranked by the number of visas, here is a list of the U.S. colleges and universities with the largest number of students from China. New campus churches are a great way to reach international students!

Asylees: Actually, there are no Chinese nationals who are considered refugees, but despite this, China is the #1 country of origin for U.S. asylum applicants, with 34% of the 25,000 individuals granted asylum in 2013. The primary reasons are political repression, religious persecution, and persecution related to the old one child policy, such as forced abortion. Can we reach out with refugee-type ministries for hurting Chinese asylees?

Unauthorized persons. Many participate in the shadow economy (unreported business activity). They either create their own businesses, or serve where they are not reported as employees. They work in construction, factories, restaurants, and a variety of occupations, generally receiving less than minimum wage, with no benefits. When, where, and how will these laborers come to know Christ and participate in local churches? See here for an estimate of unauthorized persons living and working in your state, including top countries of origin.

Who is my neighbor?

Increasingly, your neighbor, co-worker, student, teacher, server, physician, real estate agent, may be from China. As of Friday, April 1. 2016, the population of China was 1,380,765,507, or 18.72% of the world’s population. Think about it….


Linda Bergquist

Linda Bergquist is a church planting catalyst, teacher, mentor and author who has been living and working in the SF Bay Area for 22 years. She works among many ethnic groups, and has a special interest in least reached people groups. Bergquist is an advocate of all kinds of churches and church planting methodologies. She has coauthored three books: City Shaped Churches, Church Turned Inside Out and The Wholehearted Church Planter, and is the author of the Exponential series e-book The Great Commission and the Rest of Creation.


view all
The Church Is Not the Building

Exclusive Content

Cultivating Leadership and Outreach [Behind-The-Scenes]
Developing Leadership and Outreach in a Church

Exclusive Content

What Should Church Metrics Be in 2021?

Exclusive Content

Five Ways to Know Your Community

Exclusive Content

Hard Places and Hard Times from CPLF [Ready-to-Use-Resources]