Apr 02, 2018
Leading Minorities on Your College Ministry Staff
Rashard Barnes lends his experience and wisdom to others who seek to lead minorities in a multi-ethnic college ministry staff team.
I have been working as a minority in majority culture spaces for almost eight years. I have experience being led by and leading those who are from another culture. During my time I have observed some things that I want to share with leaders who desire to lead minorities on their staff. Now I want to begin with a caveat that I think as you ask someone of color to join your staff you need to pray and ask if you’re ready to lead them. This is the greatest mistakes that many leaders make. Now I know that many of you already have minorities on your staff and you are feeling the burden to love and lead them well. Here are a few suggestions to help you do that:
1. Become aware of your culture.
You can’t take someone somewhere you have not been. You need a keen awareness of your own culture before you can talk through culture with your staff. Daniel Hill’s White Awake is a good resource to help you with that. Once you become aware of your own culture, you soon began to realize that you are putting a lot of your culture on your minority staff and you become aware of their plight. Most ministries unintentionally make their minority staff assimilate without even knowing it.
2. Fight against tokenism.
Most of majority culture staff are unaware of this notion. They see a diverse campus and realized that they need a diverse staff. The only problem is the ministry philosophy is catered to a particular people group, and the campus ministers who are making the decisions tend to only see through their cultural lens. Tokenism can be destroyed when power is laid down by the one who has power. You need to process through how you are going to give an equal say in your ministry. This does not mean that you stop leading, but forces you to think about how to give voice to your minority staff members as you lead.
3. Realize that they are out of their element.
Like me, they probably left a comfortable situation in their own culture because the Lord was calling them to ministry and your ministry gave them the opportunity. Now they would have loved to stay but there weren’t any opportunities. Ask them often how are they doing with working for your ministry as a minority and then be ready to listen.
4. Give them space to be themselves.
Most ministries don’t do this intentionally, but they don’t give minority leaders the space to be themselves. Give them space to mourn ministry aspects that are harder for them. There are many times where I walked into the ministry that I was a part, and I felt so alone. You can’t fix this but just be aware and sympathetic that it is happening.
5. Resource them well.
Allow them to take time to go to conferences that will recharge their cultural tank. As W.E.B. DeBois states, minorities live in a state of double consciousness. We are always dually interpreting two worlds. Supporting them in their endeavor will go a long way towards helping them be a healthy person and an effective staff member.
6. Be a learner.
My pastor back in Texas was always reading books, listening to lectures, and consuming podcasts. He would engage me on these topics and we learned together. Exploring the culture and experiences of your minority staff member is a chief way you can communicate their value to you and the ministry you lead. Just remember, your staff is not the expert on their culture. They are only experts on their experience.
Let me end with a word on hiring. When possible, hire in bunches. Hiring one person of color will soon isolate your staff, and they will be looking for ways to quickly exit your ministry. There is great value for them to have a peer on your team.
There is much more to be said on this topic, but let this be a starting place for how you think about hiring and leading minorities on your staff.