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Multiculturalism In Congregations Is More Than Just Diversity

For many congregations, having a more racially or ethnically diverse congregation is a goal, as the communities look to expand their reach to new enclaves of potential members. Alex Murashko, of the Christian Post Reporter, discusses both the issue the role and placement of multicultural leaders, as well as the importance of understanding how Christianity is understand in different cultural communities. Tony Kim, a church staffing expert, explains that in one congregation where he worked as a pastor, any new Asian guests were assigned to speak or meet with him. The assumption, he inferred, was that he could communicate with different racial and ethnic Asian groups because he is Korean.

Beyond recognizing the major differences between racial and ethnic groups, such as between Koreans and Chinese, or Puerto Rican and Dominican, congregations and congregational leaders need to be aware of the likelihood that religion and congregational life may be interpreted differently depending on the culture of origin. Pastoral and laity training on cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural communication may help to uncover new ways to reach out to growing racial and ethnic groups in the community.

Tony Kim remarks that, at one point, the goal was to attempt to get racial and ethnic diversity in the worship and pastoral leadership of a congregation. More and more, he finds that he focuses on including this conversation about multiculturalism.

Is your church attempting to reach out to different racial and ethnic groups? In what ways have you attempted to reach out? Are people in your worship or leadership team of the non-dominant racial or ethnic group? Are there people in your religious community who are skilled in cross-cultural communication? In what ways would a change in racial and ethnic makeup affect the congregation’s goals and identity?

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org