Multi-Ethnic and Cultural Conversations

Diversity in the church isn’t something that ministry leaders will just stumble into. We need to understand that change does not come by being passive but by including diversity actively and intentionally. As a teenager, I attended a healthy Hispanic Nazarene church with a visionary pastor who wasn’t content with the status quo that was “just another Spanish speaking church.” Instead, he wanted to cultivate a multicultural service that included diversity in every aspect of the church. I learned several things from that experience that have influenced my ministry. 

Survey the Land

Check your area. The first thing my pastor did was check the areas around us to see if we represented our neighborhood. With the data before us, we were able to take steps to more accurately reflect our community. My pastor started to develop young leaders to speak into the church, be on the board, and pour into other young leaders. This wave of second-generation students who were the children of immigrants began to have a say in the ways of the church. 

Start by asking, 1. Does our group represent the area we are in? 2. If not, are we okay with keeping it that way? 3. What changes do we have to make to reach those who might feel left out? Once your church has committed to change, consider going to the spaces where you see the most diversity and getting involved in the lives of those communities. This might mean going to the schools, parks, and after school clubs and fill the needs there. 

Change it up

One of the biggest changes our church had to make was stylistic changes to create a worship that would fit the many different cultures represented in our area. First, we added an English verse in every song, then we included multiple English songs each week, and finally we brought in Black worship leaders to lead gospel music weekly. We targeted many different musical styles of worship from merengue to bachata, rap, reggaeton, hymns, reggae, and gospel. Every sermon, song, and small group were translated on stage; every on-screen visual was as well. 

Changing it up might look like adjusting the music style, creating more diverse media packages, incorporating speakers of different ethnic backgrounds, or having service in more diverse settings. It might even be incorporating a teaching team that includes people of all different backgrounds, age, and gender to speak into the message so that it isn’t coming from one worldview only. 

The truth is, churches change and evolve. To change in a manner that includes diversity is to change in a manner that welcomes Kingdom inclusivity. To incorporate diversity in a weekly sense is to create an environment that is inclusive—one that will help reach all in the neighborhood through Christlike conduct, compassion initiatives, and acceptance.

Be Consistent

Consistency is hard in this fast-paced world, especially when we don’t see results. It would have been easy for my pastor to give up when he began to change things around. People were angry and complaining. Some staff felt demoralized when things didn’t change immediately. In fact, it took years before we started to see the fruits of the change. 

In ministry, consistency is key, and Kingdom-minded diversity is a way of life. To incorporate diversity is not a fad or a season of ministry—it requires constant, conscious effort. Be consistent in your conversations with people who aren’t like you. Be consistent in the way you seek diversity, and don’t give up because you don’t see results. Kingdom diversity isn’t about results; it’s about building a culture where all are welcome to hear the gospel and have their lives radically transformed by Jesus. 

The Why

Diversity is messy, but it’s in the beautiful mess we see God bring together what has been marred by division, hatred, and bigotry. The good news is for all people and all tongues. The church doesn’t have to be so divided, so segregated, and so touchy on subjects like this but can be a representation of the communities we find ourselves in and the creativity of our God.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

-Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Carlos Portillo
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