During the month of May, our Facebook discussion centered around the topic of transitioning from mono to multi-ethnic worship. We had insightful discussion around challenges and ideas. You can see the full discussion on the network Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/115159921876519/
#1 Challenges leaders face when transitioning from mono to multicultural worship
Emily Kim, New Jersey
After realizing that I am the only one who sees the value of multi-cultural worship in my congregation, I have tried to incorporate multi-lingual worship and it brought some negative feedback: My church congregants felt uncomfortable during such worship despite of my explanation of the significance of multicultural worship. So, I am not incorporating any worship songs in different languages at this point. I have talked to my senior pastor about this and he sees the value. However, he and I both agreed that it would take a LONG time for our congregations to get there and so we need to take baby step at a time.
Cate Song, NY
Our main tension has been how to incorporate so many different multicultural elements of worship into a 20-30 min set and remain true to who we are as individual musicians and making sure not to have songs there as tokens. There are so many factors to consider and many constraints. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, but I confess it’s a difficult journey. I do agree that we need the vision to be cast by the leadership of the church.
Nikki Lerner, MD
The main issue I see as an educator on this topic is that many churches don’t have a PLAN. Churches can oftentimes say this phrase where “We have a heart for diversity or for our church to become multicultural” – but then have no formal strategic plan.
Cate Song, NY
I recently took on the Worship Pastor role in my church and I feel disoriented sometimes wondering what my responsibilities are in bringing multi-ethnic elements to our worship services while staying true to who I am, a Korean-American whose heart language is also English, and whose heart music is not even close to the modern worship genre.
Amanda Hernandez Cariveau Miller, Georgia
The only language I am fluent in is English and I’m third generation Hispanic but I love worship in other languages. I have a deep desire to worship in other languages and feel inadequate as I don’t have the ‘roots’ of any other language and therefor no credibility. All this may not be true but still my ‘reality’ at this point.
#2 Idea and insights for other leaders to carefully navigate this journey
Jeremy Yoon, New Zealand
Both appreciation and perseverance are the combined act of kindness to see the multicultural worship team members to love one another when it is rather easy to hide in their own cultural group or behavior. I would appreciate what they do to me first. I wouldn’t just give heartless easy encouragements but from a small contribution to the huge noticeable ones I would almost always celebrate or repeat the word of appreciation for what they do.
Carolyn Burke Ohrosky, Wisconsin
The biggest lessons I’ve learned in this (and my context has mostly been in working as staff with InterVarsity chapters and training college-aged worship leaders are (1) if I can find stories of WHY and HOW multicultural worship effects individuals and communities, my students understand it from a heart context and are much more willing to embrace and then lead in it and (2) I had to always, always, a thousand times over, remind them of the bigger picture of why we were doing it. As a leader, I have learned that I might understand something and what is behind it, but I have to be a consistent communicator of that point to those under my leadership – it might take 10, 50 or 100 times before they “hear” and “understand.”
Peter Kim, MN
I would say one of the very important things to do is to pray, especially if you’re in the minority of people in your church who has caught the vision for multicultural worship. Pray for support from your pastor and elders and deacons. Without their support you’re going to end up hitting a wall and become quickly frustrated. The other thing is to be very clear on your church’s mission statement. If you try to cast vision on your own without having something to reference to, you’ll lose the support of the congregation.
Esther Shin Chuang, Illinois
I would first talk/teach about what worship in heaven will look like (from the book of Revelation) and then teach about the importance of multicultural worship, the unity of nations, and how we could have a glimpse of kingdom worship on earth. Then I will start teaching and introducing global songs. In the past, I have also shown pictures of worship around the world and how people worship God some what differently, yet God is the God of all nations. Giving people a global picture seems to always encourage them.
Amelia Koh-Butler, Sydney, Australia
What I have found helpful in Australia is to talk about my own hyphenated identity as a Eurasian-Australian… what does it mean to be both-and rather than either-or? What does that mean for us as a worshiping community? Without fail, it has led others to share their cultural collisions and talk about how that could be embraced and explored in the worship times.
James Ward, TN
The closest thing to a plan that we had was 1. to locate in an urban or diverse neighborhood, 2. we researched and visited African American churches to learn praise songs and find resources, like the Gospel Music Workshop and the National Baptist Hymnal, 3. A specific and intentional mercy ministry, 4. Accentuate the minority cultures in song selection, 5. Parity in ethnic representation up front. Doing all these things takes a generation to address effectively, with a lot of missteps.