We live in a diverse country. One doesn’t have to travel far to see this. In any large city at any given time, people from all races and backgrounds surround us. In early October my family and I spent several days in South Florida where diversity is as common as the grains of sands on the plentiful beaches. Sometimes I think I’ve been transported to another world there because at any given time, one can hear multiple languages spoken simultaneously. I’ve learned also that people from different cultural contexts have different norms. I don’t mean just the different foods they eat, and so forth, I’m talking about differences in social customs as well. What may be perceived by some as rude behavior, is simply normal behavior to folks from other countries. Likewise, preferences, experiences, and taste in music can vary greatly from one cultural context to another. If we are not careful, our own ethnocentrism can creep in. This ethnocentric behavior can creep into the church as well. To combat this trend, I suggest that our churches grow and synthesize our people into multi-cultural musical worshipers while aiming to reach out to the diversity of the community surrounding the church.
Our musical worship should be expanded and enriched through incorporating varying styles of music. As we consider the impact that multiple generations, and their experiences have on a congregation, we cannot forget the fact that many of our people also have cultural differences that reflect who they are. There is a problem, however. Many of our congregations don’t have much ethnic diversity. Therefore, their musical experiences are vastly limited. But, just as I have claimed for other musical reasons, becoming more musical diversified in order to “attract” any segment of your population is ineffective at best. Building generationally and racially-diverse relationships is the key. It’s really all about context. As your church embraces and welcomes folks from all walks of life, THEN make sure what you are singing is also diverse.
How should we build relationships with our community which reach out to the diversity already present?
- Reach out to the local schools in the community
- Volunteer and support local civic and charitable groups
- Volunteer and support local ministries such as a pregnancy resource center, food bank, and the like
- Allow your church to be used for community events then be as hospitable and welcoming as possible
- As you become more varied ethnically, spend time learning cultural differences of those in your midst. You’ll learn so much just spending time with various folks from different ethnic groups than your own. It will expand you…in a good way!
Much more could be added to this list. The point is to reach outside the walls, especially if the ethnic make-up of your church is not very diversified. Then, LEARN from all and INVOLVE all, especially those with cultural and ethnic experiences different from the majority of your worshipers. Finally, be present in your community with the intention of promoting the gospel of Jesus through acts of service and love. Added bonus: Millennials and Gen Zers LOVE to get involved and put their faith into action (not that other generational groups don’t), but Millennials and Gen Zers are driven often by investing in their community. Get your Millennial and Gen Z leaders involved in helping plan and implement some of these ministries aimed at diversifying your local church community.