Neighborhood Transitions and the Local Church, Part 4

So far we’ve looked at two options churches typically consider when the neighborhood in which they are located goes through change. The first was to to create a true multicultural church. Those options are often the most common, especially relocating, but they also leave out a third scenario which is becoming more common in large metropolitan culture: multilingual neighborhood churches.

I should add that these are broad categories. You could start another campus, relocate part of the congregation, and be a multilingual multisite. Or, you should move to multicultural ministry AND have language congregations as well. You get the point– these are broad categories.

However, if the community transition is dealing with more distant cultures that speak different languages, an important third response is to create a multilingual church or different congregations meeting in the same buidling (and, better yet, part of the same church).

I once preached at a church in Boston that had five languages represented in the church. They had a multilingual church with different language congregations. In the midst of this, however, they were clearly one, unified church They shared an elder board containing people from each of the congregations who prayed together, worked together, and led together along the way.

I think that the best scenario is not relocation (option 1), though I understand there are times and situations when that it the best thing to do– and congregations need to listen to the leadership of the Lord. The church is not a building and, if the church has moved far from its building, something has to be done with the building. So, if you relocate, start another church and ministry in the building the Lord gave you.

However, I think multicultural transition is a better choice, either in one multicultural congregation (option 2) or in multiple congregations in one facility or (even better) one church (option 3). With that in mind, let me conclude with some thoughts that are applicable to both options 2 and 3.

Practically speaking, how can this pursuit for a genuine multicultural community in a transitional neighborhood be accomplished? Based on my own limited experience, and more broad experience researching and consulting with churches, I see five foundational steps:

  1. Begin to build leadership reflective of the community. When we were planting our church in Buffalo, our neighborhood was about 40 percent African-American, 30 percent Anglo, and the rest was a mix of other races. We tried to model those percentages in our leadership from the very beginning. The community responded.
  2. Intentionally engage ethnicities present. Multicultural engagement will not happen by accident. A strategic plan should be created. Intentionally seek sufficient knowledge and background about the culture from someone who knows this information.
  3. Move beyond tokenism and give actual representative leadership.Disingenuity will be spotted a mile away. Multicultural leadership must be present across the church: in worship, administration, and teaching to name a few areas.
  4. Consider calling a pastor that is reflective of the predominant ethnicity of the community. Ultimately, it is God’s call who to place as pastor, but be intentional, however, to broaden the search to include candidates from a number of different backgrounds.
  5. Reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. Above all else, our church, and the people that make it up, needs to be a picture of Heaven on Earth. Only through God’s grace, love, and guidance can this kind of miracle happen. I can’t think of too many other images that can better illustrate what Jesus Christ can do in the hearts and minds of people who love Him first and each other second.

 

Since pursuing a multicultural setting goes against individuals’ natural tendencies toward homogeneity, church growth WILL be slower. Nevertheless, when God gives the opportunity to move to multiculturalism, take the risk and make the commitment. When changed lives are the fruit, it’s worth it.

This is the final post in a series of 4; read the rest here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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Thank you for the suggestions. I am looking to make some changes to our bulletin. I slimmed it down a few years ago (getting rid of the order of service and some other things). The issue that I am facing is that more than 50% of our congregation are senior citizens; the rest are younger families. It is very difficult to find something that meets everyone's needs. I have also tried to slim down the amount of inserts we put in the bulletins. Recently, I started putting pictures on the cover and everyone seems to love that! In the past our bulletins have been completely "inward" focused. There was nothing in there for guest and there wasn't even any contact information included. It would say something like "See Joe Smith for details." What happens when someone doesn't know Joe? I added a first page welcome explaining where kids go and what Sunday School Classes are available. I'm stuck trying to appeal to the old school and new school at the same time :) http://gracebiblesouderton.org/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=180075183&sec_id=180011477
 
— Nicole
 
Whoa ! This is a two way street ! Unity is give, take & compromise unless if comes down to doctrine, there is NO wiggle room in doctrine. Needs and Wants can be very opinionated and the cause of much contention between the Lay and Clergy. Jesus and Paul did not have Gilded Pulpits and the masses did not have cushy padded "Lazy-Boys" Needs and wants have to be looked at very closely, so personal sacrifice has to be observed on both sides. Wants = Greed, Needs = Humility and content.
 
— Bruce
 
My husband and I are seeking a new church because we've recently moved. We've been shocked and dismayed to find so many unfriendly , closed congregations and pastors. We're servants who want to plug in and work alongside fellow believers. However, so far we've not found one church where the pastor is a humble leader and the members are friendly, willing servants. We're not new believers. We're seminary trained with hearts for the lost. Willing, able and called. So far the Lord has not directed us to the church of His choice. It's no wonder America is in the shape it's in when our churches are closed social groups, not open, welcoming , loving brides of Christ.
 
— Cheryl
 

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