Unreached People Groups Priority Matrix Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
- Can you explain the categories of the Matrix and how it is weighted?
- How do you define what qualifies as an unreached people group?
- I think a people group numbers a lot more than you indicate. What is your source for population numbers?
- Why do people groups have to number 5,000 in a metro area to make the list?
- It seems like some of your entries aren’t actually ethnic groups but groups associated by language or country of origin. How do you determine the people group names and identities in the UPG Matrix?
- Why are some very large populations less prioritized than smaller populations, sometimes even among the same people?
- Does your data include populations of international students who come from unreached people groups but only stay for a few years?
- Do you measure the number of resources that churches/Christians are currently dedicating to reaching the people groups in question?
- Why is the emphasis of the Matrix on where cross-cultural missionaries are needed?
1. Can you explain the categories of the UPG Matrix and how they are weighted?
The list is sorted using an overall significance score based on a matrix of weighted factors including a people group’s population size, amount of Christians, amount of ministry being done, amount of churches started, the global significance of a people group’s presence in a city, and their global status of evangelical Christianity.
In effect, the Matrix prioritizes frontier people groups with the smallest Christian presence globally (e.g., small Hasidic Jewish groups with few believers score higher than large Bangladeshi people groups who have movements to Christ in their homeland). Furthermore, the Matrix prioritizes unreached people group (UPG) communities who have the least amount of missionaries and same-culture believers, even if those communities are smaller than others (e.g., Punjabi Sikhs in NYC score higher than Punjabi Sikhs in Vancouver because of the more developed missionary work in Vancouver).
We are seeking to identify where cross-cultural evangelists and missionaries are most needed because of a lack of Christians within a people group. Groups who have a significant Christian presence outside of the evangelical stream are not included in our list (like some peoples who are primarily Roman Catholic) as a matter of prioritizing needs. The assumption is that all Christian streams have access to Scripture and the gospel in a culturally and linguistically familiar way. Joshua Project (a global peoples database that tracks the impact of the gospel) also does not include groups as unreached peoples if they are over 5% Christian of any kind. Also, some groups like Japanese, Nepali, Cambodians, or Mongols might still appear on global UPG lists as less than 2% Christian, but their Christian presence is much higher in North America (e.g., Pew research shows 38% of Japanese in the U.S. are Christian). As a result, we leave these groups off our list as well. They do not have a desperate need for cross-cultural workers.
Here’s a further breakdown of the weighted factors:
Global Status of Evangelical Christianity (GSEC)
The Global Status of Evangelical Christianity index number is listed under the people group’s profile on peoplegroups.org (and sometimes joshuaproject.net). On these sites, we look at the GSEC score for the country where the people group’s population is largest for the best representation of a global number. We then enter a score on our Matrix from 0-100 based on the GSEC score (GSEC 0=100, GSEC 1=65-95, GSEC 2=35-60, GSEC 3=5-30).
The Global Status of Evangelical Christianity scores are as follows:
0 = No evangelical Christians or churches. No access to evangelical print, audio, visual or human resources.
1 = Less than 2 percent evangelical. Some evangelical resources available. No active church planting within the past two years.
2 = Less than 2 percent evangelical. Initial or localized church planting within the past two years.
3 = Less than 2 percent evangelical. Dispersed or widespread church planting within the past two years.
Not all unreached people groups are the same. Some have burgeoning church planting movements globally but haven’t reached 2% evangelical Christian within their population yet. These groups are less in need of cross-cultural workers because of the evangelizing capability of local churches within these people groups. Some people groups don’t even have easy access to Scripture or audio resources in their language. The GSEC score thus serves as a way of measuring what groups are most in need of outside evangelists and missionaries globally.
There might be 150,000 Bangladeshis in Metro New York but there are also church planting movements taking place among that group in their homeland. Pupa Jews number less than 10,000 in Metro New York but score much higher on overall priority because there are no known Christians among this group worldwide, no one focused on reaching them, and they happen to have their largest presence in the world in Metro New York.
The Global Status of Evangelical Christianity has a high weighted score on our Matrix (8 out of 10).
Population Size in City
A people group has to number 5,000 in a metropolitan area to make our UPG Priority Matrix list. While somewhat arbitrary, the number 5,000 was chosen because it is large enough for people groups to form a community with institutions and services to retain people group cohesiveness. Larger population numbers also increase the likelihood of global connections for the potential spread of the gospel. The 5-100 score in our Matrix for population size is automatically populated from the people group’s population size divided by 1,000 (e.g., a population numbering 15,000 scores 15 for this category). People groups numbering over 100,000 score the max score of 100. Our Matrix weighs this factor 4 out of 10.
Churches Started in City
One of the ways to identify unreached people groups is there are no, or too few, local churches in which a people group can be easily incorporated. Therefore, this category measures church planting efforts in a metropolitan area to see if there are:
- No churches remotely similar in culture to an unreached people group. Matrix score = 100.
- Non-evangelistic or near-culture churches to an unreached people group (e.g., a Syrian Arab Christian-background church might speak the same, or similar language, as Egyptian Arab Muslims but would not easily incorporate an Egyptian Muslim-background family, or even a Syrian Arab Muslim-background family, because of cultural difference and/or animosity toward Muslim-background people). Matrix score = 60-95.
- At least one evangelistic church that could easily incorporate the focused people group (e.g., a Bangla-speaking church w/ over one-half of their members being recent Muslim-background converts would likely be active evangelists among Bangladeshi Muslims and able to incorporate new believers into their fellowship or start new churches among them). Matrix score = 40-55.
- Several evangelistic churches among the people group who are actively evangelizing their people and could easily incorporate new believers into their churches or start new churches among them. If several evangelical churches exist among a people group in a specific metropolitan area, the need for cross-cultural workers is greatly diminished. Matrix score = 15-35.
- A church planting movement is taking place among an unreached people group in a metropolitan area. That is, disciples and churches are multiplying rapidly with indigenous leadership. If such a movement is taking place, cross-cultural evangelists are not needed. In fact, they could actually hinder the movement. Matrix score = 5-10.
As the primary factor for reaching a people group is same-culture evangelistic churches who are regularly starting new churches to reach their people, we weigh this category 10 out of 10.
Ministry Engagement in the City
This category measures the amount of ministry taking place among a particular people group in a city (e.g., English class ministries, Bible distribution, evangelism, etc.). No evangelism or ministry taking place among a people group scores 100 on our Matrix. A low score on our Matrix represents an abundance of evangelism and ministry taking place. We do acknowledge, however, that there can be ministry happening for many years among a people that isn’t effective in evangelism. As a result, we factor ministry engagement into our Matrix but it’s much less important than categories like same-culture churches started or same-culture believers present in the city. We weigh this category 2 out of 10.
Same-Culture Christians in the City
This category measures the amount of believers from the people group present in a metropolitan area. A score of 100 indicates no same-culture Christians, while a low score represents an abundance of same-culture Christians (approaching 2% evangelical out of their total population in the city). The assumption is that, if there is a large number of same-culture believers, cross-cultural evangelists and missionaries are less needed, and vice-versa. At first glance, this category seems similar to the “churches started in city” category. However, these categories don’t always co-relate. For example, there might be many Thai women Christians who married American sailors. As a result of the intercultural marriage, the couples often incorporate easier into non-Thai churches. A substantial Christian population may exist from a people group in a city (which is important and helps in the spread of the gospel to their people) but, for a variety of reasons, might not have a church for their people. We weighed this category 7 out of 10. Same-culture believers are important but not as much as the presence of evangelistic churches into which their people could be easily incorporated.
Global Significance of Presence in the City
This category considers the global significance of a people group’s presence in a city. A score of 100 indicates that the people group’s presence in a city is the highest in the world outside of countries that are dangerous, or difficult to access, for openly confessing Christians. A low score indicates that there is nothing particularly unique or significant about a people group’s presence in a city (i.e., significant populations of this people can be openly accessed in many cities around the world). The threat level in a home country of a people group can be informed by looking at the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 Countries Where Christians are Most Persecuted.
In this category, we are seeking to identify unique opportunities in cities for global evangelism among a people group. For example, Gujaratis are spread out in many cities around the world and don’t score high in this category. Satmar Jews, however, have their largest presence in the world in Metro New York and, therefore, score a 100 in this category. Tibetans also score high in Metro New York and the Greater Toronto Area because their populations in these cities are the largest in the world outside of China, India, and Nepal. We weigh this category 10 out of 10.
3. I think a people group numbers a lot more than you indicate. What is your source for population numbers?
People group estimates are slippery, even from exhaustive number-collecting efforts like government censuses. We use multiple sources in attempts to provide the most accurate estimate. Even still, these numbers should be interpreted as educated guesses to inform relative need. With the United States and Canada providing exhaustive, regular estimates on people’s ancestry, country of birth, language spoken at home, etc., these census tables provide a great base for comparing people group’s populations in various cities. That being said, it is widely perceived that census figures undercount the types of people groups included in our Matrix. For example, a people group prone to distrusting government entities or consisting of many undocumented immigrants are unlikely to disclose accurate information to census gatherers.
Since the main purpose of our Matrix is to display relative need of where cross-cultural evangelists and missionaries are needed, census tables provide a fair base for us to compare populations within cities. As a result, we often use the best census figures that are available. Among some peoples, no census tables are relevant or are obviously so inaccurate that other means are needed to determine population. In these cases, estimates from local community leaders are used or other national surveys are used. In these cases, it is most helpful if knowledgeable sources are used to adequately compare a people group’s presence in one city to another instead of having isolated community leaders in various cities providing numbers. That way, relative size between cities is more accurate. For example, to determine Hasidic Jewish numbers, a worldwide atlas of Hasidic populations was used as a main source that counted particular Hasidic Jewish populations in cities around the world through individual Hasidic Jewish court directories.
In general, census information is undercounted and local community estimates are high. If a number on our Matrix is very specific, such as 11,246, then census information was likely used. If a round number is used, such as 15,000, a community estimate was likely used. If you would like to know particular sources for particular people groups, contact us to describe who you are and why you are interested.
4. Why do people groups have to number 5,000 in a metro area to make the list?
While somewhat arbitrary, the number 5,000 was chosen because it is large enough for people groups to form a community with institutions and services to retain people group cohesiveness. Larger population numbers also increase the likelihood of global connections for the potential spread of the gospel. This number simply helps us have a cut off to determine priority. To view various populations of people groups in cities with lower numbers, visit peoplegroups.info. Also, one can sort our online Matrix by population or download the Matrix in CSV form (look below the Matrix) to delete, sort, or edit records as desired.
5. It seems like some of your entries aren’t actually ethnic groups but groups associated by language or country of origin. How do you determine the people group names and identities in the UPG Matrix?
As best as we can, we are identifying people groups as they identify/organize/socialize/intermarry/etc. within North America. As a result, our people group definitions will typically be broader than delineations of people groups in people’s homeland. Our purpose is not to list all of the different people groups in North America but to strategically identify the largest unreached people groups through which the gospel can naturally spread as a church planting movement without encountering significant barriers of understanding or acceptance.
Because language is one of the most noticeable barriers for communicating the gospel, even in North America, it plays a major part in identifying people groups. Asian Indians are a complicated group to categorize but serve as a good example. In databases like joshuaproject.net, Indian groups are largely categorized by language and drilled down into various castes. In North America, the caste delineations aren’t as important and the people often socialize, organize, etc., along linguistic lines (e.g., Telugu Association of New York, or Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, or Malayali). As a result, we have chosen to identify groups in that way (e.g., Gujarati). Often, people groups take on more of a national identity in North America and socialize/intermarry as such. Thus, we use Bangladeshi instead of Bengali or Sylheti. Sometimes groups primarily identify/socialize/intermarry with a particular religious group, and that group sometimes has their own dialect of a particular language. Such is the case particularly with Hasidic Jewish groups. As a result, they are categorized by their particular Hasidic court (e.g., Satmar Jews).
6. Why are some very large populations less prioritized than smaller populations, sometimes even among the same people?
Not all unreached people groups are the same. Some have burgeoning church planting movements globally but haven’t reached 2% evangelical Christian within their population yet. These groups are less in need of cross-cultural workers because of the evangelizing capability of local churches within these people groups. Some people groups don’t even have easy access to Scripture or audio resources in their language. There might be 150,000 Bangladeshis in Metro New York but there are also church planting movements taking place among that group in their homeland. Pupa Jews number less than 10,000 in Metro New York but score much higher on overall priority because there are no known Christians among this group worldwide, no one focused on reaching them, and they happen to have their largest presence in the world in Metro New York.
In North America, the largest concentration of a particular people in a city often garners the most attention from missionaries (e.g., Somalis in Minneapolis or Punjabi Sikhs in Vancouver). In contrast to the active ministry or church planting in those cities, sometimes smaller populations of these peoples in other cities score higher in priority on our Matrix because they have garnered less attention from missionaries and same-culture Christians.
7. Does your data include populations of international students who come from unreached people groups but only stay for a few years?
Sometimes. However, we are focused on identifying communities of unreached people groups. International students are too transient to form a long-term community by themselves.
8. Do you measure the number of resources that churches/Christians are currently dedicating to reaching the people groups in question?
Yes, on a global scale, this is factored through the GSEC category on our Matrix. On a local level, categories such as churches started, ministry engagement, and same-culture believers are measured. See more details under the questions, “Can you explain the categories of the Matrix and how they are weighted?”
9. Why is the emphasis of the Matrix on where cross-cultural missionaries are needed?
In the UPG Priority Matrix, we are seeking to identify where cross-cultural evangelists and missionaries are most needed because of a lack of Christians within a people group. When there are a lack of same-culture Christians within a people group to adequately spread the gospel to their people and incorporate them into churches, cross-cultural evangelists are needed to help establish a gospel breakthrough. As same-culture Christians and churches increase, the need for cross-cultural missionaries diminishes and is, ultimately, not needed.