Etnopedia Team Articles

Small People Groups Are The Priority


What Should The Unreached Peoples Priority Be? To know, one needs to look closely at the different world people databases. Most of us would agree that the focus should be unreached peoples, but which ones? Let’s average the numbers of ethnic peoples of the different databases for simplicity. EXAMINING MAJOR DATABASES, THE AVERAGE NUMBER IS PROBABLY BETWEEN 10,000 AND 11,000 KNOWN ETHNIC PEOPLES.

World Christian Database = 8,699 peoples.
Southern Baptist Convention (CPPI/GSEC) = 8,313 peoples.
Harvest Information System = 10,609 peoples.
Joshua Project     = 9,763  peoples.
Mission Info Bank = 10,600+ peoples.
Estimated Unidentified Peoples = 2,300 peoples. Two experts on India say there are 4,000+ peoples there.

THIS STUDY BELOW IS ON 10,200 ETHNIC PEOPLES. The numbers are rounded. They are obtained from a combination of the HIS and the Joshua Project databases in 2008.

8,200 live in only one country.
7,200 are below 100,000 in population.
360 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
6,300 speak only one language.
1,200 speak only two languages.

1,200 live in only two countries.
700 are under 100,000 in population.
150 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
750 speak only one language.
230 speak only two languages.

350 live in only 3 countries.
120 are under 100,000 in population.
40 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
170 speak only one language.
50 speak only 2 languages.

160 live only in 4 countries.
30 are under 100,000 in population.
20 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
70 speak one language.
20 speak only two languages.

50 live in only 5 countries.
5 are below 100,000 in population.
3 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
30 speak only one language.
10 speak only 2 languages.

230 live in more than 5 countries.
This means 6 or more countries.
120 speak only one language.
20 speak only 2 languages.
5 peoples are under 100,000 in population.
11 are between 100,000 and 200,000.
170 are over a million in population.

The majority (OVER HALF) of the known unreached peoples live mainly in ONE or TWO countries and speak mainly one or two languages AND are under 100,000 in population.

So I contend that priorities that are placed on peoples over 100,000 in population are incorrect. When I say priorities I mainly mean missionary efforts but also would include research efforts. I have some concerns about population accuracy that I will probably start another discussion on later. That issue is very closely related to this one because we usually make priorities based on populations. Please add your comments. I would really like to know what others are thinking.

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Interview Etnopedia Community Worker by the Global Community of Information Workers

Recently one of our community members was interviewed by the Global Community of Information Workers.

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Proposal for Dating Reached Status Scales to Collaborate Across the Missionary Movement

I was recently at a missions conference and had the privilege to spend a few days with fellow unreached people group researchers. One was with the International Missions Board and the other was from the U.S. Center for World Mission.

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Have You Chosen Your People Group Yet?

We have been trying for years to mobilize people toward unreached people groups. I have worked for over ten years in the Adopt-A-People campaign and thought many times that something is missing. I may have finally found what it is. It has to do with a personal encounter with the idea. We truly need to consider going ourselves to an unreached people. It doesn’t mean that we have to go, just that we seriously consider it. In the new Adopt A People movement in Latin America we call it the filter.

Everyone, mobilizers, old folks, pastors, youth leaders, soccer moms, kids, everyone needs to get into the filter.

Last year my wife and I were invited to a Wycliffe event in Orlando Florida. They paid all our expenses to go to a wonderful meeting to see what God is doing in the Bible translation effort. Several New Testaments were presented, live bands played and for three days they motivated and encouraged the assistants to concentrate all our energies on finishing the Bible translation by 2025. All the former presidents of Wycliffe Global Alliance were there. The oldest spoke for about 15 minutes and what he said impacted me. He and his wife began praying over 20 years ago for one of the Bibleless peoples. It is now called the Last Language Initiative. Back then, people just chose a language from the list and commited to do something. Less complicated. The former president of Wycliffe knew that they may not go personally as translators, but they chose a language group and began to pray. He announced during this meeting that after many years, the Bible was in finally in the process of translation. This is what EVERYONE must do,, something. This is a pretty common concept in many things but we can’t seem to do it as a Christian movement in respect to unreached peoples.

Everyone must get into the filter and choose a group.

Your group is yours and you will not cease until a missionary effort is there. It does not mean that you yourself will go, but I think that during the process of your filter, you need to at least consider that you might have to be the answer to your prayers. But you will pray, support, maybe take a short term trip, or give money toward the reaching of that people group.

So what is the filter?

1. Choose your religion.

This may take a while, you are going to research, pray, and get in your mind the religion. Then based on that you are going to

2. Choose your country. 

You will pray, research and wrestle in your heart and mind about the country that you are going to do something about.

3. Then choose your people group. 

Now you will choose the people group that will be your people group. You don’t ever need to tell anyone if you don’t want. This is the people group that you are going to fight for until they have the Gospel among them. Again it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will go but that you will do something. You will be eating, sleeping and dreaming about this people group. You will become the expert on that group and will tell everyone you know about them. You will make entire powerpoint presentations about them. Most importantly you will not stop until Christ is made known among them, in their heart language and a church is established.

The process of going through the filter may take 3 months, it may take six months it may take a year. It doesn’t matter. You are in the filter is all that matters. Being in the filter is where God can speak to you. You may just be the key that opens the door to this unreahced people.

Choose the smallest population that you can find of a people group. This will insure that you are the only one or very few praying. Population means nothing. The people group will not ever hear or know about Jesus without your help. If the country that is on your heart has thousands of unreached people groups, don’t let yourself get confused just pick one.

Once you have your people group chosen you can look for other individuals, churches or organizations that are out there doing something about that group. Maybe you can help a missionary or the missionary candidate get trained. Maybe you can find a church in another country that is preparing missionaries and send finances. It doesn’t matter, you are doing something. The problem with the missionary movement is that we think that the missionary is the only one that is going to do something. EVERYONE needs to be doing something to help fulfill the great commission. If there is no one else doing anything, you have just become strategic. God has placed you in that niche where there is no one else.

The Amdo people in Tibet (China)

Tonight at the dinner table my wife and I were talking about the requirements for someone in the Adopt a People campaign. (a.) They need to be someone who eats sleeps and breathes unreached people groups. (b.) They need to have passed through the filter and (c.) they need to get others into the filter. Then she (being very quick to think as she always is) “So what is your people group?” I said without hesitation “The Amdo in Tibet”. For years they have been on my heart. They are my people group. If someone said today that I have to do to a people group and I cannot do anything else, all the training and expenses are taken care of, where would I go? Well I have an answer because I have passed through the filter. I would say the Amdo. The Amdo people are actually a grouping of many ethnic groups and still several unclassified languages. No one knows how many people groups or languages exist among them. So I would have to say that more specifically my people group is the Amdo, Rongmahbrogpa. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Get into the filter and choose your group. Then you need to promote the filter and ask others, “Have you chosen your people group yet?” Don’t complicate it, just jump in.

Etnopedia Team Articles

What To Do With Unclear UPG Data

I receive many emails from the circle of researchers dealing with unreached people groups. In these emails I see something fairly often. Decisions are being made about the people group data from the research office where I believe that field data is needed to confirm that decision first. I have some experience with this as I work both in the office and in the field. I see both sides of the issue. 

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Why Focus on Small Individual Unreached People Groups When There Are So Many?

Bashgali / Kalash 15,000 people
Kalash / Bashgali 15,000 people

This past week we had the pleasure of having Duane F. of the Joshua Project in our office. Duane is concerned and confirms what I have been hearing more and more;  Individual unreached people groups are too small and numerous to focus on. I have also heard things such as “small people groups need to be merged back into the languages they speak” and “unknown groups should to be removed from the databases when we don’t have enough information on them.” Consider this. Half of all the worlds known people groups are under 25,000 in population and one quarter of all the worlds people groups are below 2,000 in population. Many of these groups are small and we have little information on them. So what do we do about it?

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Discipling Young Leaders

Remember back in the mid 90’s when they told us we need to be training and discipling young leaders? The premise was that there was a crisis of leadership worldwide. There were too few leaders and that it was going to get worse as we moved into the future. It’s happening because the older generation is not training up young people to take their place. Well the future is here and if you don’t have a young disciple at your side, you probably need to keep reading.

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How Etnopedia Deals With People Clusters

Etnopedia has a system in place to deal with people clusters. We call them “people groupings” on Etnopedia.

There is a lot of talk these days about people clusters. I need to say from the beginning that I do believe that they are strategic. However I do not believe that we should move away from focusing on the individual unreached people groups. I don’t think that history will show us that focusing on clusters will trickle down into people groups much. If a people cluster has 25 languages and fifty unreached people groups, eventually you will need to get missionary boots (nationals or foreigners)  down into “the  largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” I understand this is the purpose behind cluster thinking, read on please.

So is focusing on people clusters enough? First of all I don’t think it is Biblical or God’s heart for all ethnos. Furthermore, since there are only about 5,000 known unreached peoples left to reach, it is not unreasonable to think that Latin America, Nigeria, Indonesia and other emerging missionary movements will have the personnel to send to every specific unreached people group and their tribes and clans if need be.

A friend recently commented on his blog: Patrick Johnstone pioneered the idea of Affinity Blocks and Clusters when looking at UPGs, and several organizations are finding this a very useful concept. The individual people group is far too small and too numerous. Clusters seem to be the most strategic. We at MUP have completely organized our structure around Clusters. IMB has done the same. Has your agency? What are your thoughts on it?

Again, I totally agree that clusters are strategic. I do not agree with the statement that the individual people group is far too small and numerous. Numerous possibly but small no. Is this how God feels about the unreached tribes in the Amazon jungle.  Ask the Brazilian missionary movement how small is too small to consider reaching a people group.

We convene 4,000 people in a missions conference in South Africa and call it “the largest gathering of mission leaders in the history of Christianity.” We see a 4,000 population people group in the registry of an unreached people group database and somehow they become too small and numerous?

The individual people group IS far too numerous if you only consider North American missionary sending as the answer. If the global missionary sending effort (North American and the rest) cannot envision sending out 5000 teams over the next 20 years, then we all probably need to change our focus.

Here is another thought. Just because we cannot track missionary sending to UPG’s does not mean that they are not going from the emerging movements. We must keep our focus on the Biblical mandate, which is to every tongue, tribe clan and nation. If we do not we will never finish.

All of us North Americans also need to be careful not to suggest that the emerging missionary movements do the same as we do. We might be wrong. It has happened before.

All of us, especially the emerging missionary movements need to know as much as possible about specific unreached people groups like the Pamiri. (read below).

The Ethnic Tree View

With a tree view we can show clusters (strategic groupings) to the missionary movement. By using searchable red links, we can also show possible needs without adding more pages or registries to the database. If you have a field verified need, create a page (blue links). Red links are hyperlinks that do not lead to a page yet. It leads you to the creation of that page. In the case of Etnopedia, a page is a registry in the database. These red links and the whole Etnopedia system for that matter invite participation on bettering the unreached people information.

Example of  a people grouping (cluster) on Etnopedia:
See it live here:

Pamiri Disambiguation tree.jpg

  • Darwazi
  • Wakhi
  • Shughni Roshani


  • Ishkashimi
  • Munji (Munji-Yidgha)
  • Yidgha Distinct people and language
  • Vanji

See the Pamiri at the country level, below is a people list for researchers to see all the clusters, groups, languages, tribes and clans.

If you want to know more or input into the developing idea on People Groupings visit:



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Why Etnopedia Does Not Automatically Update or Translate People Group Information

Several people have asked why Etnopedia does not use programs to automatically update or translate information between the different language portals. So I would like to take some time to answer the questions in-depth.

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What Information Is Important In Your People Group Database?

World people group databases are complicated. They have so many fields and related tables, it is no wonder we have not yet gotten many local mobilization efforts involved in field research. Actually, the global people database has little value without field research driving it. We need field researchers gathering fresh data on the people groups driving mobilization.

So what are the most important pieces of information in a people group database?

1. The people group.
If we don’t know that a people group exists, we will not send missionaries. If peoples are left out of our data for whatever reason, they are not as likely to be reached any time soon.

2. Scale of reachedness. (Does the people group have Christians or Missionaries?)
If we think a people group is reached and it is not, we will not send missionaries. Some call this scale the Christian or Church Planting Progress Indicators.

3. The date that scale was gathered.
If you don’t know how old the progress scale is, you won’t know how reliable the data is and most importantly you wont know when to go back out and gather that data again. We use the last year the scale was updated. Example: Unreached [2008]. This year our field research team will be visiting four people groups where the dates are very old. We will be near them for a missions conference so afterward we’ll head out to get some new information. When we come back, we will put [2011] on the people group’s scale. The scales may also change. If we do not date the scale, we will not know how reliable that scale is.

All people group database should have a date on their scales. They also need another field, which is the source of that date.

A date by the scale gives a little more reliability to the data for missionary sending. If you have a source recorded, and that source was in that people group recently, their name or handle should be there. That will give even more credibility to the scale.

4. The Bible translation status. This is also very important and it tells you a lot about how much attention is being placed on the people group. It also means that you will have some evangelistic materials on the way such as the Jesus film and Gospel recordings.

5. The last thing you need for a people group database is their location or approximate location. This can be as little as a Latitude Longitude coordinate or the name of a town.

If you now know that peoples exist and you know that they are unreached, you need to get to them somehow.

Some would say, what about the population of the people group? They are mostly estimates. And what does it matter if the unreached people group still have no Christians, no missionary and no Scriptures? Does it really matter if they are 5,000 or 500,000? They still have no access to Christ. We will never finish the Great commission focusing on the larger people groups. We are in the 21st century and the theory that reaching big groups will trickle down has not proved true. Recently 5,000 Christian leaders gathered together and we called it the largest missionary conference in History. Put 5,000 people in a room and we say it’s a big deal. But when you look at a 10,000+ record database, a 5,000-population people group looks insignificant. Unfortunately it is the smaller groups (those under 50,000) that will be the last to hear about Christ. In the world people databases, 7,000 of the 10,000 records are people groups under 50,000 in population.

Do you need to know their religion? All peoples have a religion or beliefs of some sort. If they don’t believe in Christ they need to. The more data we add, the more complicated the database. So a lot of the other data we add to our databases just creates more distance between global and local research efforts. Locals are the ones that need to be involved in church planting among their own people groups locally.

In summary, we only need a few pieces of information on our people group database; the people group, the scale, the date that scale was gathered, the Bible translation status, and the location. All the other data is icing on the cake. If we have it great! But we need to be careful not to over do it or we will be inadvertently excluding the participation of others in the use of our databases and possibly research altogether.

Less is more. If you have fewer fields in your database, you will be more likely to gather and update information at the country level and much more so at the world level. We will never see a global research effort develop if we complicate the database. Complicating the issue also teaches the local field research effort that they need special technology and training to be involved. If we are ever going to see more field research efforts emerge, we need to keep it simple. Of course there is a certain amount on knowledge one needs. But how much really?

What is field research among unreached peoples anyway? Basically one needs to go and spy out the land. Or you need to talk to someone who was recently in the land. If you cannot find anyone who was recently in that people group, someone needs to walk through all the villages or the people group and see if there are any Christians or missionaries working there. It’s not rocket science. I am over simplifying a bit to make a point. But imaging if we just had this data at the world level, we would be light-years ahead of where we are today. Too many Christian progress scales are old or they are created by formulas based on availability of the Gospel in that country.

We need simple country level people lists that show a date of the last time someone physically checked on the people group’s condition.

We also need to gather this data on the Cloud. See: Working on the Cloud with Unreached People Information.