Twice last week I was asked about a multicultural/multiracial ministry and church revitalization. This past Sunday I was reminded of the beauty in a multiracial ministry.
Let me begin by saying that some may discount what I am about to say as not truly multicultural. The goal, it seems, is to see worship gatherings in which there is no one dominant race or culture. That is not our goal. I like culture. I am not opposed to people having different preferences in worship, sermon styles, food, songs etc. The ‘all in one room’ approach makes everyone give up what they do not need to give up at best. At worst it makes the smaller group give up everything.
Our goal is to reach the people in our community with the Gospel. Culture and race are clearly factors in that pursuit. I am not positing our approach as the right approach but it has worked for us and it is transferable.
To begin with we were one predominantly anglo church in a Dallas suburb. The city is predominantly (80-90%) white. But we knew with a group of only white people we were not reaching our community. So we helped to plant churches on our campus in our space.
I know, for many the first step is to hire ethnically diverse staff. People benefit from seeing someone of their ethnicity. This is a great approach and one I am in favor of. However, we were not in a position to hire. Nor did we have any other cultures amongst our group of whom we could groom as deacons or elders.
Today we have four congregations meeting on our campus every Sunday morning. Ours is predominantly white, there is an African American congregation, a Vietnamese speaking congregation and a Spanish speaking congregation. All are autonomous. By itself this is not really multicultural ministry, it is a multicultural building. But we wanted to go further, this is how we do it,
Everyone has a contract. Yes each church signs a contract. This is approved by our insurance and primarily states “you break it, you buy it.” We also cover things like how they will train, screen and approve child care workers, facility guidelines and policies. This also states that no ministry of any church will be in conflict with the Faith and Statement of our church. We do not charge rent but congregations are encouraged to give 10% of their monthly income, we do this on the honor system.
Everyone has leadership. Once a month we have an all staff meeting. The leadership of each church is welcome to attend. If the Spanish church should have need of the gym, we all talk about that. If the Vietnamese church would like to host a national Vietnamese Pastors gathering, we plan it together. At this point we do not act as if they are separate churches, we simply function as one family. We share, respect one another and give a little. No one group has precedence over the other groups.
Everyone is resourced. The other churches have access to our church ministries. This means the Spanish church launched with a full student ministry and child care ministry. They had digital check in and full age graded ministry for their potential members to check their kids into. Because the children speak English, this works. They have the same requirements our parents do. If you have a child in the children’s ministry you are required to volunteer (both parents) on a rotation and be trained as well as pass background checks through our children’s ministry. This resourcing extends to the gym, the playground, the education building, multiple large group meeting spaces, etc. Everyone is treated as if everyone is exactly the same and has the same bucket of tools to work with.
Everyone fellowships. Every fifth Sunday our church eats together. I know it is Old School but I like it. We invite the other churches to take part. Our congregation and the Spanish and Vietnamese Churches worship at the same time which allows us ease of scheduling. It is always a joy of mine to see the egg rolls on the table right past the fried chicken. Whenever the Vietnamese church has a baptism, they simply cancel their services for the day. We try to schedule our baptisms at the same time. They are in our service,their pastor baptizes their disciples. As English speakers we have no idea what he is saying ( and we do not make him translate just like we do not translate what I say into Vietnamese) but we do know what he is doing and we rejoice in that.
Again, I am not saying this is the way to do it. What I am saying is that five years ago we were 100 or so white folks, today we are over 400 plus mixed race Christ worshipers. Our nurseries are packed with multiple cultures, the people I preach to are of diverse races and cultures. Our fellowships bring together people who would not normally sit at the same table together. Our campaigns to raise money for disaster relief or building projects are joint efforts between churches who do not share the same language but share a common cause and can together for the Gospel. All of this thrills my soul and I hope it is a sweet sight to Christ as well.
Published June 1, 2016