Embracing Cultural Diversity: Ten Recommendations for Churches to Consider
These recommendations come out of the research findings of the 2008 TrueCity Refugee Welcome Project involving 4 Hamilton churches who have been actively interacting with newcomers to Canada.
1. Focus on building mutual relationships and shared activities
- recognize that friendship is the goal
- incorporating opportunities to socialize and relate together as friends is essential to fostering healthy relationships between newcomers and host church members
- make sure your relationships are reciprocal- take turns serving and receiving
2. Ensure your church environment is welcoming and accessible for diverse cultural groups
- a church audit can be a good way to see how others experience your church, what potential barriers might exist, and what your strengths are that you can build on.
- Remember that the church environment includes both the physical structure (things you can see) as well as the social atmosphere (the way you feel when you are there)
3. Experiment with forms of worship life that reflect the cultures of the church (eg. prayers, music, Scripture readings in other languages etc)
- hearing music, Scripture, and prayers in a variety of languages is spiritually powerful in both the lives of those who understand that language AND those that don’t
4. Develop a “cross-cultural ministry” team to keep these issues alive in your congregation and to help facilitate appropriate change
- With the knowledge and blessing of the church leadership designate a team of people to specifically focus on helping the church grow in welcoming and integrating new immigrants. As well as being personally involved in building friendships with newcomers, this team can help develop the capacity of the church as a whole to create welcome and belonging for new immigrants
- It is important that this team includes newcomers
5. Develop the ‘cultural intelligence’ of your congregation .
- There are many skills that people can learn so that they have a greater capacity for cross-cultural relationships. Make a place to teach and coach your congregation in relating cross-culturally. These skills will equip them for relationships with newcomers wherever they are- at church, at work, in the community.
6. Make time to intentionally reflect and learn from your experiences
- Without a doubt there will be frustrations, difficulties and conflicts that arise in the midst of any attempts to relate cross-culturally. There will also be great joy, meaningful moments and transformation. Taking time to reflect on what has been happening and how people are feeling about it allows you to learn and grow in a healthy way from these experiences .This will happen in different ways in different church settings.
7. Evaluate the participation of people from other cultures in leadership in the life of the congregation.
- Identify the barriers that exist to ethnic diversity in leadership roles.
- Create opportunities for newcomers to exercise their gifts
8. Find creative ways for newcomers to have a voice in shaping the way things are done in the church
- When possible facilitating newcomers into leadership roles can be beneficial. Be creative in finding ways for newcomers to share their opinions and ideas. It might be as simple as asking some questions!
9. Find ways to help the whole church embrace the call to become a community of inclusion
- public storytelling from both newcomers and host church members in worship services and small groups
- teaching on the biblical basis for intercultural church and our scriptural mandate to love the foreigner
- make shared hospitality an important part of church life
10. Recognize this as an opportunity for spiritual growth in the life of your congregation
- Draw from the faith experiences of newcomers
- Find ways to connect your local and global mission. The presence of newcomers in your congregation can help strengthen your global involvement. And at the same time your global involvement can inform your work locally