May 14, 2018
Is Your Ministry Ready to Be Diverse?
Rashard Barnes shares some insight and questions to help guide as you pursue a diverse college ministry that reflects the makeup of heaven and your campus.
Over the years, I have gotten the same question from many of my white brothers and sisters in ministry:
“How do I move my ministry from homogeneous to multiethnic?”
When I was initially asked this question, I was quite perplexed by it. First of all, I was rejoicing. The conversation about race in the American church and cultural inclusion has been a three-century discussion, but most majority culture leaders have chosen to ignore it. Through the work of the Spirit and the relationships they had with minorities, these leaders grew a personal conviction to do something about it. Secondly, it was a sigh of relief. I had some co-laborers that were willing to take on the college campus and its diverse complexities.
Now, the majority of students that are entering college campuses are coming from high schools or environments that are diverse or at least are made up of many colors. Then, being on the college campus, these students are seeing and experiencing the complex realities of diverse campuses. Unfortunately, many enter our ministries and see something entirely different. Most students don’t know what to do with the inconsistency in our ministry and what they see in their classroom and around the world. We must model for them what that looks like.
In a previous article, I talked about how to lead a diverse staff, but I want to backtrack a bit. I think to lead a diverse staff you need to have a diverse ministry. When I say diverse I am not talking about multicolor which is a representation of color in your ministry; I am talking about multicultural. If you strive to be multicultural, you will be multicolor, but if you strive to be multicolor, you might never get to be a multicultural ministry.
To move to being a diverse ministry, you need more than a few minor tweaks. You need to change your system. For a system, you need people ready to commit to this for the long haul. Below are a few questions to consider if your ministry or organization is ready to be diverse:
- Are you aware of the blind spots in you and your organization?
- Does your ministry or organization understand racial biases?
- Are you aware that other cultures have different values than yours?
- Are you ready to hear a different perspective on life and ministry without getting defensive or discrediting it?
- Have you observed other ministries that are reaching other demographics on your campus? Have you noticed their systems, structures, and culture?
- Are you aware of any activities/ministries that would price out certain students in your ministry?
- Have you conceptualized an environment where cultural/racial issues could be dialogued and where your team and ministry will flourish?
Hopefully, after examining some of these questions, you’ll be ready to have some conversations with your staff. I want to leave you with some encouragement as well. Pursuing racial unity is not a side issue of the Gospel, it’s one of the direct implications of the Gospel. You are going to mess this up in one way or another, and that is why Jesus came to die. He came to reconcile us to the Father and us to each other. Thus in our reconciling to each other, we are going to hurt each other. So don’t be afraid, our Lord is with you. Remember Joshua 1:9!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)
Lastly, a resource that will help you understand racial bias among White Evangelicals is a book called Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. Reading this book will take you into some more in-depth understandings and discussion within your ministry.
I am praying Ephesians 2:16 over our ministries:
“…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (ESV)