Young, connected and diverse—that describes group life for a rising generation. As emerging churches and church plants reach into urban and university environments, the racial and ethnic diversity in the group rises, something we all long to see. But we must not be naive. It takes some thought and wisdom to make this work.
“How do churches build cross-cultural small groups? Does it work?” I am often asked this question by urban pastors or churches having a dramatic demographic shift. Here are some things to consider.
- The younger the congregation, the less of an issue racial diversity becomes. Young adults aged 18-25 have experienced more diversity in every aspect of life, especially on college campuses, and more readily form cross-cultural relationships without thinking much about it.
- Young adults readily seek spiritual community. There is a great hunger for mentors and groups that foster spiritual growth, or offer guidance for life.
- Multi-cultural groups cannot be manufactured. Only multi-cultural churches can authentically launch such groups. So, how inclusive is your church in your demographic?
- Churches in urban or university settings have a great opportunity to build such communities. Group and church leadership must reflect the diversity of the community where the church is.
Diversity and cultural integration in group life is desirable but cannot be forced. It can feel “token” at best and “racist” at worst. Forced integration never works as well as the invitation to reach across the divide and do some life together—regardless of the past.
Just ask Mandela.