Innovation is essential to fostering diversity in the church. In fact the need for the church to reflect and bring together the faces of the world is one of the reasons we need to innovate. The multi-ethnic church planting model is relatively new, but has already laid down some pretty important groundwork. Already the faces we see every Sunday in the pew beside us look less similar to each other than they did several years ago. Already more congregations across the country are offering services in languages other than English, while others than once didn’t have English as an option now do. We are becoming more diverse as we gather together before the altar.
The success of the multi-ethnic church planting model lies with the pioneers who helped make it happen. In his book, Ethnic Blends: Mixings Diversity into Your Local Church, Mark Deymaz notes that pioneers are not actually the ones who discover something and that the multi-ethnic church planting pioneer stage did not begin until a few years into the 21st century. He writes that pioneers “are the first to recognize the intrinsic value and significance that others only stumbled upon or took for granted.”
At Path1 we are presently preparing to e-mail out a survey to the majority of churches that reported in 2009 to the General Commission on Finance and Administration church membership of 80% or less of one racial /ethnic group. This is the one current criterion for a multiracial/ethnic church. To my amazement and joy, 599 United Methodist churches fell into this category.
Our hope is to learn some foundational information from these churches via the survey that will assist us in our efforts to better understand multi-racial/ethnic churches within our denomination. The survey will also allow us to identify and begin to communicate with these pastors, some of whom we hope will be willing to partner with us in providing the best practices and training for multiracial/ethnic church planting as practitioners/facilitators. Just imagine what would happen if each one of those churches began training planters who went out and planted a new church which also fit the criteria of a multiracial/ethnic congregation. Those 599 churches could easily become thousands in a short amount of time.
This year at the School of Congregational Development we already have some learning opportunities on this subject and hope to have many more in the future. These include a workshop on Cultural Competency: Leadership Skills for Congregational Transformation, an intensive on Exploring Multi-ethnic New Church Starts, a ministry track on Developing a Multicultural Church in the Hispanic-Anglo Context, and another ministry track for Focusing on Diversity: Mission Opportunities, Barriers to Overcome and Best Practices. These opportunities will help expand the number of multiracial/ethnic churches in the United States.
The church has a mission to bring the world together in the bonds of Christ’s fellowship. That goal begins with local congregations bringing communities together. How do you think churches can innovate their ministries to reach new people and form diverse communities? Share your thoughts with us here. Please join us at the School of Congregational Development in Dallas, TX July 27 – 31, 2011 and take advantage of these learning opportunities and many more!