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3 dynamics of multi-ethnic ministry

April 22, 2016 | by Parnell Lovelace, Jr.

Recently, I had the opportunity to preach at the Fifth Anniversary Celebration of the Bayside Midtown Church, Sacramento, California. This thriving congregation is one of the most ethnically diverse congregations in Northern California. Over the course of four Sunday services, I observed nearly 2,000 people enthusiastically embracing corporate worship and fellowship in the heart of what is considered to be one of the most diverse cities in America. It was apparent that as this church grew in attendance, the congregants were also growing in connection with one another. People from all walks of life actively participated in the teaching, singing, serving, and sharing in an atmosphere of celebration, learning, and prayer. Through this experience, I pinpointed three key dynamics for facilitating multi-ethnic ministry that is authentic and sustainable:

1. The pastor and the church must be willing to tackle difficult subjects that challenge unity by noting the differences and by celebrating the things in common.

Our nation has become increasingly aware that racial disparities and marginalization challenge our communities. Thankfully, many congregations have engaged in the difficult conversations that have been required to build relationship and understanding between educators, law enforcement, and social constructs. Multi-ethnic ministry must not ignore these challenges, but must lead in addressing such challenges through dialogue and appropriate intervention. Second, the worship celebration can merge and incorporate various styles of music, preaching and teaching, and other forms of communication to reach all members of a diverse congregation.

2. The culture of the community must become a central theme of ministry.

The common culture of the local church plays a vital role in connecting the various ethnic groups. For example, if the church is located within an urban community or a rural community, the urban or rural culture may serve as a unifying factor by which appreciation of diverse ethnicity may be appreciated and celebrated. A city block party or a family day outing can embrace the larger cultural context, while also presenting a platform of ministry activities that encourage diversity and multi-ethnicity.

3. The leadership team must be intentional in representing multi-ethnicity.

The faces looking out from the ministry stage and those within the congregation must reflect the faces of the multi-ethnic community. The tapestry of diversity must never be overlooked or ignored. Solid, practical efforts must be made to encourage people from underrepresented groups to seek out leadership, administrative, or support positions within the staff and ministry teams of the local church.

It was a joy to watch Bayside Midtown Church display all three of these dynamics. Though they may have not perfected the process, they are exploring the wild possibilities available to people who take God’s heart for unity seriously.

Photo source: istock

Parnell Lovelace, Jr.

Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr., D.Min., is the founding pastor of the Center of Praise Ministries of Sacramento, California. He served as its senior pastor for 25 years, prior to leading the healthy and thriving congregation in a planned succession. 

His educational experience includes: an Associate in Arts Degree, American River College; Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology, Oral Roberts University; and Doctor of Ministry, Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). 

He has been the recipient of various awards, commendations, and recognitions such as the Prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers and Collegium Scholarsat Morehouse College.

He serves as CEO and lead consultant with the Lovelace Leadership Connection, Inc. He is a certified church consultant with the Society for Church Consulting and the author of the book, Set itUp: Planning a Healthy Pastoral Transition.


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