Director | Transcend Culture
Being effective in Multiethnic Ministry requires more than just desire. Every person, including ourselves and our congregants, has implicit (or explicit) biases that can fight against unity. As a result, we must be fully equipped to understand the things that get in the way when we come together. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t receive nearly enough information about multiethnic ministry in seminary. Fortunately, there are resources here to help!
Sociological and Historical Grounding Resources:
Any serious student of the multiethnic church must read the book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. In this groundbreaking work, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith show how racial segregation in the church causes division in society. Next, pick up The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches by Korie Edwards. Her analysis details how even multiethnic churches sometimes fail to treat all members equally. Also in this category would be resources that instruct on how ethnic and racial divisions were created. Bone up on your history by reading The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. This book provides a historical overview of the relationship between race and the church. Also essential for historical grounding is Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith, in which we learn about, and are given room to lament, injustices that still affect us today.
Being effective in Multiethnic Ministry requires more than just desire.
Now that you know the history, how does your church practice become multiethnic? For many, the first question is about worship. For this I recommend Sandra Maria Van Opstal’s The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World. Her book teaches that worship is far more than music, grounding practice in a reconciliation mindset.
Worship is far more than music.
Multiethnic practice also requires a shift in leadership style. The High Definition Leader by Derwin Gray provides insight to help church leaders create environments like that of the early church—displaying unity across ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries.
For dispersing your new-found knowledge, you also need resources that you can use to start conversations with your staff, board, and congregation.
One such resource is Multiethnic Conversations. I wrote this 8-week small group curriculum along with Mark DeYmaz as a tool for churches to begin deep conversations about race, class, and culture. Its structure covering theology, history, and practical considerations will allow readers to grasp a holistic perspective of the importance of multiethnic church.
Another excellent conversation starter is Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil. This clear handbook towards building Kingdom has an implementation guide, and is particularly helpful for creating systemic shift in congregations.
Finally, the Multi-Ethnic Resource Kit from Exponential is a comprehensive resource for starting conversations. Within this kit, you will gain from the collected wisdom of many speakers, such as Linda Bergquist and Drew Hyun. It also includes messages from some authors mentioned above: Derwin Gray, Mark DeYmaz, and yours truly. The kit includes seven audio and two video training sessions that you can use to accelerate the learning of your staff. Perfect for sparking discussions in small group or at staff meetings, the carefully curated collection of messages will leave your team inspired and energized.
Oneya Fennell Okuwobi is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology studying race and religion at The Ohio State University. Oneya’s research interrogates how diverse organizations impact racial inequality. Along with her husband, Oladele, Oneya is founding elder of 21st Century Church, a church plant in Cincinnati, OH. She is co-author of Multiethnic Conversations: An Eight-Week Journey toward Unity in Your Church. It is the first personal devotional and small group study on multiethnic life and church designed for people in the pews. You can find Oneya @Ookuwobi or Transcendculture.com.