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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He 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. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
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A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
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