Dealing with Neighborhood Transitions in Your Church, Part 3

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been discussing neighborhood transitions and what to do when a church and its community no longer share a socio-economic or ethnic makeup. Last week we looked at relocation as an option. While I do not think this is the best answer, it’s quite possibly the most frequent for churches. If you are going to do it, I suggested a few things to consider.

This week, we turn our attention to the hard work and commitment required to create a multicultural church. That, I think, is a better course of action.

While a neighborhood transition is a fantastic opportunity to create a multicultural church, most people who call for this have never actually been in, much less have successfully built, a multicultural church. Juan Sanchez has written a pair of blog posts about multicultural worship and multi-ethnic congregations here on the blog in the past few months. While his church didn’t face these exact circumstances, he provides some helpful suggestions.

First, we must understand that a multicultural church is a lot more than simply getting someone who is African-American by background, Latino by background and Asian by background and proudly saying, “We’re multicultural.”

If all those people live in the same geographic area, listen to the same music, and go to the same movie theaters and restaurants, they do not reflect true multiculturalism– where there is intentional embrace of cultures, not just the presence of people who come from certain ethnic backgrounds. More accurately, such churches reflect a mono-culture with different racial and ethnic backgrounds represented. This is not to belittle this development. I praise God for the development of churches containing multiple races and ethnicities.

However, to be truly multicultural, however, takes a lot more work. Now, I should not say that I am the expert on the subject– others have written more articulately on the subject. However, what I’ve learned personally was from a planting a multicultural church among the urban poor in the inner city of Buffalo, New York.

We learned a few things there, but a subsequent study illustrated more.

Here are a few things to consider (which I will flesh out later) on the transition:

1. A church needs a vision for a multicultural future– a passion to reflect the Kingdom in this way.
2. Leadership needs to embrace and model the change– including creating a multicultural leadership team.
3. Churches need to prepare for the challenges, conflicts, and opportunities that such transitions provide.

A multicultural church is more work than you think– everyone likes the hypothetical idea and complains about the lack of multiculturalism in the church, but are often not willing to make the transitions and pay the price needed.

We’ll talk more about them in the next post.

Read Part 2 of the series here; read Part 4 here.

Read more from Ed here.

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer is the President of LifeWay Research, a prolific author, and well-known conference and seminar leader. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.

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Most churches I visited that had a meet and greet during the service, the people from the church only spoke to each other, Most people couldn't be bothered speaking to the visitors. It was a time of "fellowship."
— Alice
My top two would be #1 and #8, especially #1!
— Norma Conner
I remember moving to Arkansas 20 years ago from the north and neighbors coming to greet us at our new house, or stopping me in my driveway to introduce themselves and to ask what church I went too? Initially this bothered me because I was taught that religion, like politics, is personal. I also thought "where's the casserole" because that's what we'd do when a new person moved into our neighborhood while growing up. I understand now that southerners are welcoming you into their world by inviting you to their church and appreciate being part of this now. In retrospect, I probably still would've preferred a casserole and getting to know my new neighbors by being invited to their homes first and becoming friends. I say this because if, and when, I may have tried their church, I wouldn't have felt like an outsider because I knew someone to sit with. Attending new churches has felt similar to not getting picked in Jr. High School Physical Ed basketball. In my opinion, this is the biggest issue I have found problematic in churches....a sense of not being/feeling welcomed. It's not that people don't say hello (although I have tried new churches where no one has greeted me/us at all), but I have longed for a church where we were invited to dinner, to know how to volunteer and know how to be part of things without having to force ourselves on the church members, to be able to sit at a table at a church function and have others actually talk back to us when we spoke to them first. I recognize that church is not about us, but church should be about making others feel like they matter, no matter who they are, just as Jesus intended. Reaching out sincerely and not snubbing. I know that there are always going to be unfriendy or fake people, but they definitely shouldn't be the ones welcoming others.
— Patti

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